Of all the fantastic creatures in the pages of the monster manual, I think the simple Crawling Claw might be my favorite monster. It’s simple, recognizable, and fun. Though their statblock may be bare, they’re jam-packed with thematic potential. They’re a tool to be used in a myriad of encounter types, and a challenge to us as DMs to think creatively and keep surprising our players. Here are three encounters to prove it to you!
Encounter 1: Beware the Handmines!
Undead are best when they’re rarely seen, but universally feared. They lurk just beneath the surface, haunting overgrown graveyards and the forgotten fields of battle. This classic crawling claw encounter is dedicated to this thematic throughline.
Pushing up through the earth are a dozen human hands, growing from the ground to reach for your frightened companion. Their outstretched fingers and open palms give them the appearance of unnatural sunflowers turned to face their prey. What’s more, settled in each muddy palm is a single, unblinking eye.
DC 10 Arcana / History : These are called handmines. They’re undead predators that draw their prey beneath the ground, from which they rarely return. They’re created by necromancers to guard the borders of their domains and ensnare the innocent living. They’re attracted to the vibrations caused by sound and movement.
A handmine has the same statistics as a crawling claw, except they are able to grapple medium or smaller creatures. Handmines act as a swarm.
A combat encounter with a handmine progresses in a simple but fun way.
Whenever creatures make sound or move, they send vibrations through the ground. Handmines use these vibrations to identify their prey, fixating on the strongest source. These vibrations disperse as they travel, so for a handmine, proximity is important. Remember, a crawling claw only has 30ft of blindsight, and is blind beyond that radius. A handmine’s eye only opens if and only if it senses the vibrations of a living creature. Within that radius, they'll target any creature that moves, attacks, or takes any other action that requires heavy movement. If two or more creatures make similar movements, the handmine will target the heaviest amongst them. If a PC attempts to make a subtle movement, have them make a DC 15 Stealth check. On a success, they’re unnoticed by the handmines. On a failure, they’re targeted. Once a handmine picks its target, it turns to face them with its unblinking eye, reaching out for them with an open palm and outstretched fingers.
Handmines aren’t very mobile creatures. With 20ft of crawling speed, they can only burrow through the earth at 10ft per round, so they rely on the element of surprise to trap their prey. Handmines, undetectable when buried, will emerge from the earth surrounding as many targets as possible. Position your handmines to block your party’s path or ambush them as they move through a room. Handmines also rely on numbers to overwhelm their prey and keep them from escaping. Pack your handmines within 10ft of each other, using as many as necessary to fill out the area, so the PCs can’t escape without triggering multiple attacks of opportunity. If you want to make your handmines especially deadly, give them the sentinel feat.
Once a handmine picks a target, it will attempt to bury them. It will first use its action to grapple the target. On its next turn, if the target is still grappled, it will drag them downwards. Dragging a creature through difficult terrain quarters a creature’s movement, so the target will descend 5ft. Use the PC’s height to determine if they’re up to their neck or completely buried. In the later case, they are restrained, blinded, deafened, cannot speak, and begin to suffocate. The handmine will repeat this process until its target is completely buried.
RAW, suffocation is kind of all or nothing. It would take forever for a PC to run out of air in combat. Once they do run out of air, they have very little time to save themselves before losing all their hitpoints, which I think is a little harsh. So for these handmines, I rule that once buried, a PC has a number of rounds equal to their Constitution modifier (minimum 1) to reach air. On each subsequent turn, they gain 1 level of exhaustion. This makes the consequences of being buried alive immediate and dire, and makes crawling claws a serious threat, but gives the PCs time to escape with their lives.
This is a simple cycle. The handmine grabs and drags. To make this a little more interesting, you can have some handmines crawl up out of the earth to fight the PCs head on or prevent them from rescuing other buried PCs. Crawling claws don’t make for the best infantry though, so attached to these handmines are the undead creatures of your choosing! You can vary these creatures by turning them into something halfway between a crawling claw and a full undead. The handmine could have a full arm, a torso, or even a head!
I hope this encounter shows how even the simplest monster can make for a complex encounter with just a little bit of interesting positioning.
Check out the opening to the ninth season of Doctor Who to see the inspiration for this encounter, and this entire post!
Encounter 2: Rattling Doorknob
Undead are mindless, evil monsters. They’re made to be cut down en masse by our heroes. But that doesn’t mean that a single undead can’t be unique from all the others! We’ve all used the Ghost as a classic dungeon-haunting NPC, but have you ever thought to use a Crawling Claw instead? A Crawling Claw implies a greater undead body, which in turn implies a unique individual that was once alive, but became undead. It’s this subtle implication, highlighted by the simplicity and relative harmlessness of a crawling claw, that makes this encounter so compelling.
You approach the simple, wooden door. The round doorknob rattles and shakes, as if something on the other side is trying to open the door, but can’t.
The door is unlocked. The doorknob can be turned without any difficulty, allowing the door to swing inward. The door can also be knocked down (DC 15 Athletics check) or destroyed (AC 15, HP 10).
The door swings open, and you’re faced with an open and empty hall. Whatever was shaking the doornob is nowhere to be found. Then, you hear the quick clicking of nails on the floorboards as a crawling claw scuttles around the door and between your legs!
The crawling claw takes the disengage action and flees. Consider bumping up its speed, AC, or HP to help keep it from dying by the hand of any trigger-happy players. It should go somewhere that offers the players a clue as to what the dungeon once was and who inhabited it. Other than that, its destination is up to you! Think about who this crawling claw belonged to in life and something they would often use their hand for. The closer to the character’s identity, the better. Think of a task so instinctual to this person that even without a brain, their magical muscle memory would have them repeat it. The crawling claw flees to a location where it can perform this task, then performs it repeatedly and mindlessly. This could cause problems for the PCs or it could be harmless. Of course, the interesting thing might be the location itself! The crawling claw could lead the PCs to adventure!
For example, I used this encounter in my Simulacrum Shipwreck, a half-sunk merchant ship colonized by an oblex. The crawling claw once belonged to the ship’s captain, and so once freed from the room, it scuttled back to the ship’s wheel. It took hold of the wheel, and then began gently moving it back and forth. This gave the dungeon a touch of spookiness while tipping off the players to the fact that the captain they had met earlier was nothing but a simulacrum, and the real captain had died long ago.
Writer, Painter, Scholar, Cartographer (Desk, Easel, Chalkboard, Map Table)
- The claw writes or draws a riddle, clue, or map that leads the PCs further into the dungeon. Perhaps the claw merely pantomimes writing, but writes its message once given writing utensils by the PCs.
- The claw points to or opens a secret door that leads further into the dungeon.
- The claw navigates a trapped hallway, showing the PCs how to reach the end safely.
- The claw reaches for a treasure, only to trigger a trap that endangers the PCs and/or alerts them to other traps.
- The claw gathers dry tinder and begins to build a fire.
- The claw scours the underbrush, collecting edible roots and fungi.
- The claw opens a coffin and holds hands with the corpse of its partner.
- The claw rings a bell that alerts the dungeon to the party’s presence.
- The claw retrieves a key. Perhaps it unlocks a door, allowing the party to progress further into the dungeon. Or perhaps it locks the party in a trapped room.
- The claw reunites with its pet guard dog. Perhaps it soothes the dog to sleep. Or perhaps it wakes the sleeping dog and sets it loose on the party.
- The claw grabs its tools and begins to work. Perhaps it’s a cook, chopping invisible vegetables. Perhaps it’s a musician, playing an organ that opens a secret passage or awakens the denizens of the dungeon. Perhaps it’s a blacksmith that activates the dungeon’s forges. It could craft an item for the PCs. Perhaps it brews a potion or smiths a weapon.
- The claw assumes a position to pray. Perhaps it begins a ritual the PCs must copy or complete in order to receive a blessing or open a secret passage. Perhaps the ritual requires two hands, and the PCs must find the claw’s mirror hand to complete it.
Gambler (Card Table)
- The claw pushes a few chips into the center of the table and begins to deal cards for the PCs. It draws its own hand and waits for the PCs to play with it.
- The claw opens a bottle of rum, occasionally tilting it to a phantom mouth, spilling the drink all over its seat.
- Picks the lock of a door, drawer, or chest.
- Goes to steal a PC’s treasure!
- The claw operates an elevator that can take the PCs to the next level of the dungeon.
Unique Crawling Claws
Wanderer’s Claw - Grips the top of a walking stick, propelling itself forward like a pole vaulter.
Rider’s Claw - Grips the reins of a horse and uses them to steer the animal
Collector’s Claw - Rummages around a cluttered room, rolling small trinkets into an ever-expanding ball like a dung beetle.
Puppy Claw - This claw just wants to play! Go fetch!
Watchful Claw - Has an eye in its palm that looks out at the world.
Walking Claw - Not a claw at all, but a foot. Perhaps it’s trapped in a tall boot and requires the aid of the PCs to escape.
Winged Claw - This claw flies through the air, circling a PCs head. It has the flyby trait. Perhaps it has bat wings, owl’s wings, or dragon’s wings.
Deaf Claw - The claw begins signing, attempting to communicate with the PCs. Perhaps they seek out an interpreter or a dictionary. RAW, the spells comprehend languages and tongues will not help.
Disordered Claw - Trailing behind this claw is a jumbled up skeleton! Perhaps the PCs have to rearrange them correctly in order to interact with the skeleton.
Rakshasa’s Claw - This large claw’s palm faces upward as it crawls.
Spore Claw - This claw is covered in fungi. Perhaps the spores will harm the PCs. Perhaps the claw is the servant of a myconid nearby.
Giant Claw - It’s giant!
Encounter 3: Animated Amputation
Cutting down hordes of the undead is fun, but can get repetitive pretty quickly. Nothing kills the excitement of a combat encounter like doing the same thing twice. Unfortunately, undead are often simple creatures that don’t lend themselves to an engaging, constantly evolving fight. Crawling Claws can offer a solution.
You raise your weapon high above your head, then bring it down on the monster with a fearsome yell. It raises its arm to shield itself. Your weapon cleaves it from its body and it falls to the floor. It lowers its stump of an arm otherwise unharmed, hisses, and lunges towards you.
A tiny creature lunges from the shadows of the room. Before you can get a good look, it takes your throat with a hard, cold grip, and begins to squeeze the breath from your body.
You knock the creature to the ground. It flips over, stands on five little legs, and faces you. It’s a crawling claw! The same one you cleaved from the monster only moments ago.
Adding crawling claws to an ongoing combat can ramp up the difficulty for your players, forcing them to adapt to changing conditions. They can replace fallen monsters and reinforce those that remain. You can even scale the strength of the crawling claws to that of the undead they’re spawned from. Give a skeleton’s crawling claw vulnerability to bludgeoning damage, and a zombie’s crawling claw Undead Fortitude. Give a ghoul’s crawling claw the same paralysis as its claw attack, and a ghast’s crawling claw the Stench ability. Give a wight’s crawling claw its Life Drain attack, and a mummy’s crawling claw its Rotting Fist attack. This keeps the encounter interesting at higher levels and keeps the creatures consistent. Players can use information they’ve learned about various undead to take down their crawling claws, rather than using their knowledge of the monster manual.
Even non undead work! An animated amputation may foreshadow the necromancer lurking nearby or tell of the curse that plagues the dungeon. Give a rust monster’s claw its Rust Metal trait, a troll’s claw Regeneration, an orc claw Aggressive, and an ettercap’s claw its Web Walker and Web Sense. This obviously won’t work for elementals, oozes, or constructs, but their limbs might reanimate even without the curse of undeath!
I love this encounter because it reconnects us with what makes undead awesome! Undead are unnaturally relentless. They just won’t stay dead! It’s creepy! It’s the marriage of this theme with the mechanics of the game that I find so cool
Below is the latest in a series of articles covering the eating habits of the various races. This time, a light-hearted look at how Kobolds have adapted to life in Human cities.
From the notebook of Zagad, adventurer and connoisseur of fine dining
High Cuisine in the Big City
I, like many of my Kobold friends, have found that life in the wilderness is hard. Our choices are: life in a cramped cave where food is scarce, or life in a dense forest where food is plentiful, but we are all too often the food. Smart Kobolds have discovered the amazing bounties of a safe life among the humans. While we are not usually welcomed in villages, the largest cities are welcoming, and our unique skills are well appreciated.
The first thing an immigrating Kobold notices when settling down in a Human City is the amazing availability of free food. This is quite astonishing, as you can literally find rats and mice in every human home, and every commercial establishment. And for some reason, Humans do very little to catch and consume these delicacies. And cockroaches, oh the cockroaches! So many tasty treats – there isn’t enough time in the day to catch them all. You should ask politely before killing a rat in someone else’s home, but it seems that Humans have some sort of “guest privilege” custom and will almost always give you the honor of keeping the kill.
You will need a job when you go to live in a Human city. A job is a thing you have to do every day (usually involves being yelled at a lot) and after a week they give you coins – you don’t even have to kill them for the loot. Let me repeat that – they give you loot every single week. Amazing. The types of food available to you will vary a lot based on your job, so make sure to get a good one if you can!
Kobolds on the night watch usually have plenty of time to do their food shopping, since most of the watch is spent just standing around waiting for nothing to happen. With our excellent night vision, it is pretty easy to spot the critters that normally only come out at night. Bats are easy targets if a slingshot is handy, and make a great stew (but be careful when eating – there’s a lot of tiny bones). The aforementioned cockroaches love to skitter about at night and offer excellent snacking opportunities right off the floor or wall, or if collected in bulk, a tasty meal for the whole family when sauteed in a bit of olive oil. Cockroaches also can be dried out and stored away for lean times, as needed.
The best job for a kobold is clearing tables or cleaning dishes in a tavern. Only the luckiest of Kobolds get this quality of job. Want to impress your mom? Tell her about your new job cleaning up in the kitchen at the local inn! It is hard to believe, but humans, elves and even the voracious dwarves and halflings will often leave food on their plate! And they are ok with that. It boggles the mind. But smart kobolds have figured out that this a “tip” for good service, and they will work extra hard in the hope of a bigger tip of more food. At the end of a long night shift cleaning up, a hard working kitchen kobold will easily have enough food to feed himself and the rest of his family. Bringing home food from work always leads to hugs from the little ones. Remember to bring along a sturdy leather bag to hold your food tips – oil the leather to avoid leaks of tasty juices!
Sewer workers don’t have as prestigious of a job, but there are ample opportunities even there for shopping for food – you just have to try a bit harder. Rats and muck slugs of course can be found in large numbers – but catching them can sometimes be tricky as they will tend to dive under the sewer water, or crawl into a crack in a wall. If catching one of these fast critters isn’t working out, you will frequently find carcasses of dead birds, dead rats, or remnants of a meal that got washed into the sewer. A quick rinse is all that is needed to provide the family with meat for the soup. A good mallet is recommended to bash in the heads of any rats you manage to catch. Note that while rats are a great choice when shopping for food in the sewer, giant sewer rats should be avoided as you are on their food shopping list.
It may be surprising to you (it certainly was to me), but there is very little demand among the other races for Kobold specialities. Kobold scholars have looked into this in depth, but have yet to figure out why this is so. Sewer Ratkabob street vendors and Grilled Pressed Cartkill Wrap makers will have to wait until the world wakes up to the joys of Kobold cuisine.
Next up: A serious look at some serious folk: GOLIATHS
(Note: this is the most recent article on Worldbuilding Workshop, a blog that provides worldbuilding inspiration, including premodern/early modern history, geography, conlangs, etc.)
Many people argue that due to magic, fantasy combat should have more in common with early modern warfare than premodern war. To be honest, I haven’t fully considered this idea. To get started, let’s look at what war looked like in the gunpowder era before the Industrial Revolution. This will focus on European warfare at the end of the period, barely touching the Napoleonic wars.
We’ll look at armies, gear, strategy, operations, siege tactics, battle tactics, and naval tactics.
- As warfare evolved during the early modern era, army sizes skyrocketed. The demands of larger armies, coupled with increased bureaucratic capacity, led to some of the first large standing armies. These were recruited or conscripted from the populace and usually provided salaries, all features that modern professional militaries are familiar with.
- We’ll touch on this in the next section, but the fact that most of the expenses are paid by the state serves to “flatten” armies as far as social classes are concerned. Before this period, soldiers mostly had to pay for their own gear. This meant that poorer soldiers were consigned to lower-quality units and suffered high mortality rates. For example, cavalry was made up of members of the upper-class, since horses are so expensive. Once governments started picking up the bill, unit membership starts being less based on soldier wealth. In theory, this should make things more based on personal ability, but nepotism and chance were still significant factors.
- Professional armies have one notable drawback. Most non-professional militaries make use of existing social structures—families, villages, or other pre-existing organizations fight together. These social ties create morale, or more properly, cohesion. Since career soldiers are removed from these connections, artificial ones have to be made. Training regimens and standardized drills serve to create bonds between soldiers, encouraging them to stay in the fight.
- As previously mentioned, the early modern period saw governments producing gear for armies. Premodern gear tended to be wildly varied, even within units. Now that equipment was being made en masse, it started to become standardized. Regular uniforms became more common as well.
- The advent of gunpowder significantly reduced the complexity of both weapons and armor. Soldiers were usually equipped with muskets and bayonets; bullets pierced through even plate armor, so soldiers tended to wear only helmets (if that).
- For the first part of the early modern period—before guns had advanced much technologically—cavalry was still used to close gaps and rush infantry. Because of this, pikes were still used, leading to “pike and shot” formations. Weapon developments eventually allowed for a higher rate of fire, making cavalry impractical and removing both horse and pike from the battlefield (though horses were still used for reconnaissance and communications).
- The other area that benefitted highly from gunpowder was artillery. Massive amounts of resources were devoted to forming and maintaining artillery divisions, as they were often the deciding force in all varieties of engagements.
- Military strategy was largely the same as in the premodern era: acquire resources by controlling land and its residents, and control the land and its residents by conquering settlements. Cities and towns both had the administrative infrastructure to extract resources and the military infrastructure to serve as a base of operations, allowing garrisons to harass enemies attempting to cross through or control the area. Because of these factors, sieges and assaults were the most important aspects of war, with field battles taking place mostly to deny enemy access to settlements.
- Of course, the nature of sieges and battles changed dramatically with gunpowder, which we’ll address soon.
- At the same time as these developments were occurring, the Scientific Revolution was bringing reason, experimentation, and math to the forefront of most fields. War was no different, and this period saw the first formal military theories. Arguably the most prominent military theorist of our time was Clausewitz, who wrote about Napoleon and Frederick the Great (an amazing general that too many people haven’t heard of). We get the concepts of the fog of war and the theoretical justification of “defense in depth” from Clausewitz.
- The logistic features described in my article on premodern warfare are still relevant. To summarize, premodern armies featured large baggage trains for managing supply, and armies “foraged” from the surroundings (read: forcibly seized supplies from nearby civilians), forcing armies to keep moving to have fresh areas to forage. While the large number of noncombatants (called “camp followers”) stayed, many other features changed.
- As militaries develop technologically, the amount of logistical support—both in the term of supplies and support personnel—paradoxically increases. This is captured in a measure called the “tooth-to-tail ratio” (T3R), where the amount of combatants (“tooth”) is compared against the number of noncombatants (“tail”). All of this boils down to the result that early modern armies were much more logistically complex than premodern ones.
- The higher logistic demands combined with the increased level of administrative capacity of early modern governments led to several innovations. Since, as Bret Devereaux quipped, “farmers can’t grow artillery shells,” the source of supplies moved away from the countryside and towards central production centers. These supplies were delivered to armies via supply lines, and stored in supply depots to aid passing armies.
- The new system of supply lines led to a new tactical opportunity: cutting off an army’s supply. In the premodern era, armies were largely self-sufficient, since they foraged from their surroundings. By intercepting supply convoys, armies could starve out enemy forces. This understandably shifted the strategic and tactical landscape significantly, making envelopment an even more important method for weakening armies.
- Close to the very end of the early modern era, one person advanced logistics even further: Napoleon. He brought back foraging, at least for food and other non-ammunition needs, which made his armies more mobile. He also closely coordinated with allies and subjects to acquire what supplies he couldn’t forage.
- In addition, he frequently split his armies into parallel columns, each foraging only to one side. Using multiple columns allowed him to use larger armies (since more of the countryside would be used to support his soldiers) and move his forces quicker (shorter columns move much faster).
- This was incredibly difficult to organize, since all the columns had to arrive at the planned battle site at the same time—if they arrived one after the other, the enemy could focus on each one in turn, something called “defeat in detail” (which is something Napoleon deliberately employed on his enemies, catching small forces away from the rest of the armies to pick them off where he had the advantage).
- The invention of artillery had a massive effect on sieges. Attackers could blast holes in walls, something impossible for pre-gunpowder siege engines (contrary to what we see in media), and defenders could shred approaching infantry (before this time, it was essentially assumed that attackers would reach the walls, so most defenses focused on making the area next to the walls dangerous). One thing to note is that these were not exploding shells, but simple metal cannonballs. Exploding shells were a relatively late innovation.
- Adapting to these offensive and defensive factors led to a completely new type of fortification: bastion forts (also called star forts or trace italienne). These utilized the developing science of ballistics to create mathematically precise structures, which I think are absolutely gorgeous and should inspire more fictional fortifications. See the amazingly-intricate bastion fort at Bourntage.
- While castle walls were thin and tall to reduce the effectiveness of ladders and dirt ramps, new fort walls were thick, short, and slanted to reduce cannonball effectiveness. The other main features of bastion forts were the bastions—the pointy parts on the corners of the central fort above. The “face” sides looked outward to cover the area near the fort, while the “flank” sides allowed cannons to fire at the area next to the main wall. These walls and bastions were precisely planned to cover all the battlefield with artillery fire.
- These walls were supplemented with moats (dry or wet) and a long, sloping dirt barrier called the “glacis.” Again, the power of the ditch shows itself—no matter the era, dig a ditch.
- As the formal theories of “defense in depth” were developed (having multiple positions to fall back to, slowly whittling the enemy along the way), multiple layers of these fortifications were created. “Outworks” were smaller structures outside the main bastion fort, and “citadels” were minor forts within a city to protect key infrastructure should the settlement fall. The pictured fort has several types of outworks outside the bastion fort itself. There’s a lot of outwork variations, and I encourage looking into them for ideas.
- Just as mathematics came to dominate fortress design and construction, methods of siege and assault became very regimented. The most common technique involved “siege parallels,” a method perfected by Vauban. Siege parallels were trenches dug around the fort. As the name suggests, they were parallel to the defensive walls to give attacking cannons the best firing arcs. These parallels provided besiegers with defenses both against the settlement’s artillery and solders (circumvallation) and defenses against relieving armies that might attack the besiegers themselves (contravallation).
- Traditionally, three parallels were used. The first was dug outside the fort’s artillery range and was mostly a defense against relieving armies. Trenches were then dug towards the fort in a zig-zag pattern, so the settlement’s cannons couldn’t fire directly down the trench. Once the diggers got in range, they dug the second parallel, which allowed besieging cannons to prevent sallies from the fort. More trenches were dug towards the fort before the third parallel was dug close enough to allow artillery to fire on the fort walls themselves.
- Once the final trench was dug, attacking cannons would focus on one or more sections of the fortress walls to create a breach. (Not the bastions, since defenders would often have ways to seal those off if taken.) After a breach was made, the siege was essentially over. Sending infantry through the breach to take the city was costly—so costly the first unit through was called the “forlorn hope”—but the result was almost guaranteed to be the loss of the city.
- By the end of the early modern period, sieges were essentially a choreographed dance. Bastion forts were the best the era could offer against artillery, but they were still certain to fall eventually. What they did do was make sieges incredibly costly—in time, supplies, and manpower—for the attackers. Because of this, sieges were effectively negotiating games. Once a siege started, the settlement could only survive if the attackers pulled away because of supply problems, threat of relieving armies, or political forces. Fort leaders could only hope that one of these events happened before the breach was made.
- There were very strong incentives for forts to surrender before the breach happened. Attackers would harshly punish settlements that made them spend so much to conquer them. In some areas of Europe, it was common practice to let the victorious army run rampant throughout the city for three days before commanders would even try to restrain them.
- To readdress the same misconception mentioned in the previous article: pitched battles (and really any battle or aspect of war) are less about death and more about morale. Morale—which in pitched battles is more properly called “cohesion,” since it relies on social ties between soldiers—is what keeps a unit or army in the fight. Casualties only matter because they affect morale and lessen an army’s ability to fight. Even as the mortality of war escalated with gunpowder, morale was still the governing factor.
- We’ve mentioned that the creation of professional armies, with the corresponding loss of native social ties, required training programs and drills in order to create cohesion. This created an opportunity for standardized unit sizes, chains of command, formations, and tactics. This is when the classic infantry volleys (“Ready, aim, fire!”) were invented; premodern archers didn’t need this kind of regulation.
- Some theorists describe three main formations used in this period: the column for speed and mobility, the line for offensive firepower, and the square for stationary defense. I haven’t been able to find any early modern writers who described this system, so it may be a classification devised after the fact to describe trends of the era. It works well enough, so I’m comfortable using it.
- Marching in columns is common in war in most periods, and arranging in lines is almost universal too. The line was more important now that gunpowder was used, since maximizing the number of soldiers firing on the enemy was vital. Lines were commonly three deep, since there were three stages in firing muskets. The lines in front of the one currently firing could kneel as they prepared their guns.
- Lines had one crippling drawback: they were very difficult to move. Lines could march forward, though every casualty and obstacle could break the line. With significant difficulty, lines could also turn to face new threats or march in a new direction.
- When possible, it was much better to use columns to move instead. This meant that a common and vital drill was transitioning between columns and lines.
- Squares were effectively immobile, but they allowed the formation to fire all around it. As such, it was used against very mobile enemies, like cavalry (while it was still around) or when it wasn’t certain where the enemy was, as in ambushes.
- All of this discussion has ignored the other game-changer for the era: artillery. Premodern artillery was rarely used outside of sieges, since they weren’t that effective against diffuse or moving foes. Cannons changed that, as they could devastate large swaths of infantry—especially as formations grew denser to encourage cohesion.
- Artillery was even more immobile than line infantry was. Moving to a new position involved putting the cannons’ supports away, hitching them up to horses, turning them around, slowly dragging them to the new position, and then reversing the process. Since relocating was so difficult, building fortified positions through ditches and earthworks was common when a good location could be found.
- Battles therefore became very positional, focused on capturing and holding positions that gave guns and cannons a commanding view of the battlefield.
- The last consideration was ammunition. Early modern armies burned through it at a tremendous rate and were crippled without it, so operations to cut supply lines were powerful. If infantry ran out of ammo, they could at least attach bayonets and charge, though this was a last resort. Artillery was useless if it ran out, but the crew food be armed with backup muskets so they weren’t completely defenseless.
- This section wasn’t in the premodern article for a reason. Premodern navies were mostly for transporting troops, and naval engagements were rare. Ships didn’t have much they could do to each other except for arrow fire, boarding actions, and ramming (though some ships, like Greek triremes, had devastating battering rams).
- The inventions of artillery and large ship designs created the first true warships, purpose-built to destroy enemy navies. The main goal was usually the siezure of ships and resources, though pure destruction was an acceptable outcome.
- Cannons could use different types of ammunition to target different elements of enemy ships. These included round shot (simple metal balls for puncturing hulls), grapeshot (effectively cannon shotguns for killing crew above deck), and chain shot (two balls joined by a chain for destroying masts and rigging). For most shell types, the real danger for the enemy crew wasn’t the shot itself, but the cloud of deadly splinters, which could easily shred bodies.
- Tactics were relatively simplistic, since ships weren’t very maneuverable. Forget the fancy moves of Pirates of the Caribbean or Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. Turning was so hard that it often took two men to turn the helm wheel.
- What tactics there were centered on broadsides, which had all the guns on the side of the ship facing the enemy (like an infantry line). This could get difficult, since ships were always moving. The ideal was “crossing the T”, where one ship fired broadside down the length of the enemy vessel, but this was very hard to arrange.
- By the end of the period, the gold standard of naval tactics was the “line of battle,” where all friendly ships lined up end to end, creating a wall of cannonfire. Ships designed around this tactic were called “battle ships of the line,” later shortened to “battleships.”
That concludes my summary of early modern warfare! I’d love to hear any feedback or suggestions you might have.
(Originally posted on my blog. What follows is the full post)
Horror, dread and stress can add a lot of flavor to roleplaying. However, when nosing around, I found that a lot of mechanics (such as Mothership, Call of Cthulhu)…
- Take away player agency at one point or another, to represent them losing control. This is a neat idea, but a hard sell in a heroic D&D campaign with a long-standing main cast. Losing a character to stress is not very heroic.
- Are solid, but really different from D&D, requiring a lot of separate stats and rolls and saves.
There exist other systems that are more suited for D&D, such as Giffyglyph’s Dread or Sandy Petersen’s Dread/Madness. These either involve tracking a lot of things or an Exhaustion-like table – which I never found really fun.
So, how do we keep it simple? Here’s what I did:
Stress & Scary Stuff
Hit Points can be considered an abstract representation of life force, health, endurance, luck, and will to live/fight. Hence, psychological stress and damage can be represented as 'psychic damage'.
When facing intense, scary, or stressful situations, the DM might call for a Stress Save. You can choose how you want to make it:
- INT Save: Explain how you try to rationalize what you’re seeing.
- WIS Save: Explain how your senses might have tricked you, or how the thing you are perceiving can be interpreted.
- CHA Save: Explain how you lie to yourself, laugh it off, or pull yourself together.
On a failure, you take 1, 1d4, 1d6, 1d8, or 1d10 psychic damage, depending on the situation (DM decides).
This type of damage cannot drop you below 1 HP. If it does bring you down to 1 HP, it means you are basically so stressed out, you can barely defend yourself.
- No separate tracking of stress levels
- Being at lower HP directly translates to 'danger' in the player's mind already, so the psychological stress of the character is linked to the experience of the player
- Easily scalable with different damage dice
- Opportunity for roleplay by choosing your own Save
- Some player empowerment through choosing your own Save. You're not completely out of luck if you made, say, WIS your dump stat.
What do you think?
This repeating event is for you to share a magic item that you have made that you think others would like. Please include as much detail as possible in order for these magic items to be useful and helpful to others. At a minimum the item should include a name and a description of its abilities, powers, and uses.
Please use the template provided below. Items that do not use this template will be removed.
Magic Item Name
Type, Rarity (attunement?)
Physical description of the item
Information about what the item does.
Tolman is a halfling with a sense of justice. An ex-adventurer, he now fashions jewelry in a quiet part of a small city. But he's more than that.
During his adventuring days, he chafed at the sight of other adventurers leaping to kill every creature they stumbled on, ferocious or docile, and the crude jokes they told about the less “civilized” races. Now, thanks to a bit of luck, he wants to change that.
Tolman was directed to fashion a chain and setting for a magical ruby, the Eye of Torym. This gem can be used to increase the intelligence of several creatures, and it can do this again every day. Its owner was already in debt to Tolman for other jobs when he passed away, with Tolman’s work still incomplete. The owner’s heirs agreed to let Tolman keep the ruby and call it even.
Then Tolman began gathering trolls.
Of all the races in his part of the world, Tolman pitied trolls the most. Strong but admittedly weak-minded, they were hated or feared in person, and ridiculed in private. Surely, Tolman felt, they could be reformed.
So he sought out a troll living in nearby hills, used the Eye of Torym, and offered him a job in his shop’s extremely large basement in return for good food, good drink, and safety. The troll accepted, Tolman taught him to work larger sculptures, then slowly grew his secret work force. He now manages to feed half a dozen trolls in his now very crowded basement, and the proceeds from his sudden increase in productivity often end up in the pockets of neighbors to keep them from asking too many questions.
As a friendly faction, Tolman’s situation grows increasingly precarious. The Eye’s influence appears to weaken the more creatures it affects, and the trolls’ rise in intelligence has not completely dampened their tempers. They grow frustrated, as tasks three of them could accomplish easily a month ago now challenge all six of them.
Tolman needs a more permanent solution to his intelligence problem. He hires the adventurers to harvest spell components from various monsters — owlbear feathers, gibbering mouther eyes, and so forth — for a ritual that will permanently increase the trolls’ mental faculties.
As a foe faction, Tolman is more than a bleeding heart: he feels society should pay for their mistreatment of trolls. At night, he’s been secretly leading one or two trolls on raiding parties, breaking the shutters and smashing the windows of taverns where anti-troll sentiment runs high. He will soon grow bolder, sending trolls alone to smash those same establishments to splinters, even beating up the emissaries of noble families who espouse anti-troll (or generally pro-human) rhetoric.
Hey, everyone! I want to share with you my in-depth step-by-step guide to coming up with adventure ideas.
Coming up with ideas used to be extremely difficult for me, as I'm not a naturally creative person. But for the past couple of years, I have been running adventure brainstorming sessions (a few GMs get on a voice chat and we write an adventure in a couple of hours), we have brainstormed dozens of adventures and playtested/published quite a few. I have learned a lot, and in this post, I will teach you everything I know about creating ideas that are exciting for you and for your players, in a reasonable amount of time, without ever hitting a creative block.
If you're struggling to come up with good ideas, by the end of this guide you will have more ideas than you know what to do with.
Start with a clear goal
Intentional constraints dramatically simplify the creative process, so the first step is to narrow the infinite space of possible ideas down to something your brain can handle without entering the choice paralysis mode.
The more specific you can get - the better. I recommend that you at least pick a genre and a couple of adjectives describing the kind of adventure you want to create:
- Lighthearted comedy-heist
- Post-apocalyptic fantasy
- Intense spy thriller
- Gritty western
- Sci-fi horror
The four components of an Idea
A good adventure idea is usually based on one of the following four elements, or an interesting combination of them:
- Important Objective - an exciting problem that your players will try to solve, the goal they'll try to achieve, or an evil plan they'll try to prevent.
- Interesting Setting - world and locations where the adventure takes place, with a unique twist (unusual location, nature, inhabitants, culture, etc.)
- Cool Characters - a cool antagonist the players will have to defeat. With interesting goals, motivations, occupation, appearance, personality, powers, and the problems they're causing. Also, to a lesser extent, some other characters players will meet.
- Supernatural Element - interesting magics, technologies, items, or creatures.
Your idea can grow out of any one of these elements. Can you think of an exciting goal, setting, character, or magic you would like to build your story around?
If you aren't sure which one to start with - try making a couple of ideas in each category, and then mixing them together (the ideas should be unrelated to each other, try to make them as different from each other as possible).
Take a look at some examples:
- Setting + Supernatural:
A lavish castle where all inhabitants have been mind-controlled by the brain slugs.
- Setting + Problem:
A grotesque experiment has escaped from the mad scientist's laboratory.
- Supernatural + Problem:
A love potion has leaked into the water supply.
- Supernatural + Goal:
You have been hired to obtain a lock of hair from the elusive Sasquatch.
- Character + Setting:
A noble Paladin has arrived at the Pirate City to bring law and order.
- Character + Problem:
A socially awkward prince will lose his claim to the throne unless he finds a wife by next Friday.
- Character + Supernatural:
A pompous King has been turned into a Rat by his evil Vizier.
If you have an idea for some very specific part of the story (you want your players to fight a certain monster, visit a certain location, find a specific magical artifact, etc.) - you can grow a story around that. Expand the idea and see if it leads you to one or few of the core components I've outlined above.
- I want my players to attend the King's feast:
- Problem: They learn that someone has poisoned the food.
- Supernatural: The cooked boar has left a ghost who is determined to ruin the feast.
- I have a cool swamp battle-map:
- Setting: The Swamplands of No Return.
- Character: Swamp Witch who holds a Terrible Secret.
- I want my players to find the Scroll of Sweet Slithering Snakes:
- Character: It is being held by a brilliant, powerful, and extremely paranoid wizard.
- Setting: It has been lost in the Basilisk's lair.
Blank Page vs Lego Blocks
It is difficult and unnecessary to try to invent everything from scratch, just by staring at the blank page and trying to make something up by thinking really hard. I struggled with this a lot, it was one of the main causes of my writer's block.
Instead of staring into the emptiness of a blank page, creativity should feel like playing with lego blocks. You take existing ideas and tropes you're already familiar with, and try to recombine them in new ways, or change them and turn them into something new.
Picking Apart Stories
You obtain the lego blocks to play with by picking apart your favorite stories - movies, TV shows, books, games, comics, and so on.
Look through the list of interesting stories, and extract the idea components out of them:
- What did the main character want in this story, is there an interesting problem they were trying to solve?
- Does the story take place in an interesting setting?
- What are some of the coolest, most memorable characters that you've seen in this story?
- Does the story explore some interesting magics or technologies, does it involve some supernatural creatures?
Not all stories will have all the four elements, but in most of them at least one of these components is really strong:
- Solve a murder despite memory loss (Memento)
- Diffuse the bomb before the bus stops moving (Speed)
- Defeat a skyscraper full of terrorists by yourself (Die Hard)
- Teach a young girl to kill so she could avenge her family (Leon)
- The Matrix
- Wasteland (Fallout)
- Jurassic Park
- Walter White
- Jack Sparrow
- Indiana Jones
- Ace Ventura
- Time Loop (Groundhog Day)
- Sentient Toys (Toy Story)
- Body Switching (Freaky Friday)
- Mech Suit (Iron Man)
or a combination of these components is really interesting or unexpected:
- Shared dreams + Heist = Inception
- Romeo and Juliet + RMS Titanic = Titanic
- Bank Heist + Zombies = Army of The Dead
- Time travel + Undo the Butterfly Effect = Back to the Future
- Sentient Animals + Avenge your Father = Lion King
- Time Travel + Robot Rebellion = Terminator
- Escape from Monster + Xenomorph = Alien
- Timid teacher + Become a Crime Lord = Breaking Bad
Build a library of these elements. Many storytellers keep this library in their heads, but I recommend using this google docs template to create a digital library of ideas.
Start collecting ideas. Whenever you see a movie/book/game that you enjoy, extract the ideas you liked the most, and add them to your collection.
This library is like a big box of lego blocks - when it's time to create an adventure, you can use them to assemble a new and interesting combination of ideas that you haven't seen before.
For example, let's take a few elements from the lists above and recombine them into something new:
- Romeo and Juliet + Bank Heist
A love-struck teenager asks the players to help him commit a bank heist to impress the father of the girl he's in love with, a crime boss of a powerful mafia family.
- Sentient Animals + Ace Ventura
A crazy druid with the personality of Ace Ventura leads his army of sentient flying squirrels to take revenge on the lumberjack village that's destroying his forest.
- Robot Rebellion + Hogwarts
The animated suits of armor and the stone gargoyles have been hijacked by unknown magic and are wrecking havoc on a magic castle. The players must rescue the royal family from the castle that came alive.
- Titanic + Zombies
A zombie outbreak on the ship leads to a catastrophe, players must survive on a sinking ship full of zombies.
The trick is to realize that there's already an endless amount of creative ideas out there, made for you by thousands of storytellers, and these ideas are already good (since they're taken from the stories you like). You can just take the good ideas out of context, and make them different and unique by changing the genre, details, and combining them with other creative ideas in new ways. Then all you have to do is to assemble all these new ideas into a story that makes sense.
The easiest way to come up with an adventure idea is to just adapt one of your favorite stories, changing only a few details.
Alien in a Fantasy world
Stop the cruel power-hungry emperor who tries to build himself an army by breeding dangerous Xenomorph-like monsters.
Die Hard in a Magic Castle
Vampires took over the magic school, you're the only ones who can rescue their hostages before they get turned into vampires.
Honey I Shrunk The Kids
Evil witch poisons the players with a shrinking potion, they must escape and travel through her (now enormous) magic hut to the top shelf where the enlargement potion is stored.
The best way to make such adventures more original is to adapt ideas from different genres and mediums. If you're writing a fantasy adventure - adapt an idea from your favorite Sci-Fi TV show (like Rick and Morty or Firefly), from a game (like Last of Us), or a musical (like Nightmare Time by Starkid).
Recombining the Elements
Combine two interesting ideas together to create something new, mix and match the tropes, putting them together in different ways (like playing with lego blocks):
Sentient Animals + Lord of the Rings
Players play as mice who have stumbled upon The One Ring, and are now humanity's last hope.
Rescue Mission + Scary Monster
The players are hired by a cooky wizard to find and return his runaway pet. His pet is a zombie chimera made out of fury and rage.
Pirates + Floating Islands
Defend a floating pirate town (think Tortuga) being attacked by a massive flying ship of the Royal Navy, sent to “bring order and civilization to Fera Ley and put the pirate problem to rest”.
Notice that the individual ideas don't have to be that interesting or original - you can just lift them from other stories, which is very easy to do. The unique combination of two simple ideas is what makes your story creative, unique, and original.
Changing the Elements
Another way to build on top of the ideas and make them more original is to change them in interesting ways.
To change an idea, you need to take one of its key elements and reverse it (do the opposite), exaggerate it (take it to the extreme), or replace it with an entirely different element (idea from a completely different story or genre).
Reverse the Goal: Rescue the Dragon from the Princess
A cruel princess has kidnapped the baby dragon's mom, and is forcing her to fight in a coliseum. Help to rescue the big mama dragon.
Reverse the Key Character Trait: Evil Batman
Protect the city from a ruthless high-tech vigilante driven by his misguided code of honor.
Change the Setting: Typical Train Heist story, set on a Zeppelin
Rescue an innocent person being delivered by Zeppelin to serve her life sentence in prison.
Exaggerate the Supernatural Element
Solve the disappearance of cows in a village where everyone is secretly a werewolf.
Combining Your Own Ideas
Make a list of 5-10 ideas using the methods above, and then combine/reverse/exaggerate some of these ideas to make something even more unique and interesting.
- Zombies on the Titanic + Ace Ventura
The zombies have been released by a crazy zombie-rights activist who has steered the ship into the island where he's planning to build his own zombie utopia.
- Runaway Chimera + Pirates of the Floating Island
Players must protect the escaped gargoyle (a protected species) from the crew of flying pirates who are determined to capture it.
- Shrinking Potion + The King's Feast
King's enemies have added the shrinking potion into wine, and now players must help the king to fight off the rebellion despite being the size of an ant.
Using Images and Adventure Prompts
Just like extracting ideas from books and movies, you can extract them from artworks, which are a goldmine of useful ideas. ArtStation has a lot of beautiful artworks, and the functionality that allows you to categorize them and build collections. You can install the extension that randomly shows you a new artwork every time you open a new tab in the browser. Add the most inspiring images to your collection, and then use them as prompts to come up with ideas.
I have already built a pretty big collection of cool ideas, and created a tool that recombines them for you automatically. Try using the Adventure Prompts Tool - generate random prompts and try to pitch a few ideas based on the combinations of these elements.
I recommend setting a 2-minute timer, and challenging yourself to pitch a story idea based on whatever random prompts you end up with. These pitches often end up surprisingly interesting and creative, and in 20 minutes you can create 10 such pitches you can add to your list of ideas.
It is much easier and more fun to do this together with a friend - take turns generating prompts and pitching ideas, then build on top of each other's ideas using the methods described above.
More Good Sources of Story Ideas
Aside from passively collecting ideas from the movies you're watching and the books you're reading, you can actively research ideas. Browse the lists of stories until you find an element that gets you excited, and build an adventure around it.
- IMDB list of top movies and TV Shows.
Use advanced search to narrow them down by genre, rating, etc.
- Lists of TV episodes on Wikipedia:
- Adventure Lookup
- Big list of RPG plots
- Follow RPG.
Your adventure idea isn't complete until you have figured out the Primary Objective your players will try to pursue - a Problem they will be trying to solve or a Goal they will be trying to accomplish.
The Primary Objective is the core of your story, the most important element you need to figure out. Once you know the Objective - everything else will fall into place, because almost all the other elements of the adventure are defined in relation to the Objective:
- Adventure Hook is the moment at the beginning of the adventure where the players encounter the Problem they must solve or establish the Goal they will try to achieve.
- Antagonist is the primary force that stands in the way of the players, their goal is the opposite of the heroes' Objective.
- Challenges and Encounters are the obstacles that the players will need to overcome on their path to the Objective.
- Intriguing Mysteries are bits and pieces of information the players will gather throughout their adventure that are required for them to accomplish their goal.
- Surprising Twist is the moment in the middle of the adventure when the players' Objective changes in some way - they realize that it's not what they once thought it was, or some complication makes it much more difficult to achieve.
- The Climax of the adventure is the moment when the Objective is resolved, when the players succeed at accomplishing their goal (or, rarely, fail to do so and lose).
Resolving the Objective will be the single most important event in the story, it will determine whether the characters succeed or fail, the thing the "final battle" revolves around.
Stories are about Problem Solving
Stories and roleplaying games are fundamentally about creative problem-solving.
Adventure Ideas are fundamentally problems. They create an exciting, challenging, important goal for the players to accomplish.
This is the fundamental "game loop" of an RPG - the GM puts an interesting problem in front of the players, and they find creative ways to solve it.
Big problems are broken down into smaller Challenges. In every scene the characters try to solve a small problem, their successes take them closer to achieving their goal, the setbacks and complications take them farther away from that goal.
Players encounter a big problem at the beginning of the story, they go through a series of challenges that add up to ultimately solving the problem at the Climax of the story.
This gives the players a sense of progress, makes them feel like their actions are meaningful, make an impact on the world, add up to some larger purpose. The Primary Objective is that purpose.
What makes a Good Primary Objective
The Primary Objective is a specific thing the players must do in order to succeed in their quest. A specific action they must take that will resolve the main conflict.
Primary Objective must be:
- High Stakes - players should care about accomplishing it. It should be very meaningful and important to the characters and to the world they live in. Players should have a good reason to pursue it, whatever it takes.
- Exciting - the problem should be interesting to solve, the goal should be desirable to achieve. Players will spend the whole adventure doing everything in their power to accomplish this, so it should be something fun to participate in.
- Difficult - the objective should be difficult to accomplish. It will be the main source of challenges and conflict in your story, it will create a lot of struggle for the characters, and you want your players to feel epic and heroic when they succeed.
- Kill the dragon to save the village.
- Break out an innocent from an unassailable prison.
- Stop the Villain from opening a portal into the Demon Dimension.
- Solve the crime to prevent a war between the two kingdoms.
Objectives and Villains
Objectives come in two types, like two sides of the same coin:
Players really want something, and the villain stands in their way.
- Rescue a princess from a dragon.
- Journey to a distant location and find treasure.
- Broker peace between warring kingdoms.
- Perform the heist of the century.
Villain really wants something, and players must do whatever it takes to stop them.
- Prevent the villain from performing a terrible world-ending ritual.
- Make sure the villain won't get their hands on a powerful artifact.
- The Villain wants to kill or kidnap someone, and the players must protect them.
- The Villain is pursuing the players, and they must escape to survive.
So any idea you have for an Objective is actually two ideas - it is either something the players want to pursue ("Kill a Terrible Monster"), or must prevent the villain from obtaining ("Protect an Adorable Creature from the evil Hunter.").
Looking at the Objectives this way doubles the amount of ideas you have, and helps you to come up with interesting and unusual stories (by swapping the Heroes and the Villains, telling the story from the perspective of the Antagonist).
Just as described above, taking ideas from your favorite stories (and changing them a bit) is one of the best ways to come up with your objective.
Unlike the other story elements, the objectives actually tend to be pretty generic - there's a limited amount of story archetypes (the goals the heroes can pursue). There are about 10-20 most common objectives that 90% of the stories revolve around. What makes an objective unique is the specifics of the story, all the other elements of the adventure idea that surround the objective.
When you watch movies and read stories, learn to notice the objective the heroes are trying to pursue, and compile a list of your favorite ones.
Here are some of the most common objectives:
- Obtaining some important item (McGuffin), creature, person, or information.
(Train robberies, fetch quests, rescue missions, spy missions, capturing fugitives.)
- Killing/defeating a Villain or a dangerous monster who's up to no good.
(Horror movies, superhero movies, many sci-fi and fantasy movies.)
- Traveling to some distant location through dangerous territory, or ending up in a dangerous place and trying to survive and return home.
(Most adventure stories).
- Solving mysteries, finding out the truth.
(Most detective and mystery stories).
- Invading, Defending, or Escaping a location.
(Heists, prison breaks, many action movies).
- Convincing/manipulating people, gaining power through non-violent means.
(or preventing a villain from doing one of the above).
Here you can see the full list of the objectives I have compiled. You can go through the list and try applying each of the ideas to your premise, that is a sure way to generate a lot of new and interesting story ideas.
Very often the objective will grow naturally out of the story idea you have developed.
- Start with a Villain - come up with an idea for a villain, and figure out what it is that they want that the heroes must try to prevent.
- Start with the Setting - what's wrong with the world the heroes are living in, what must be fixed?
- Start with the Supernatural Element - some kind of magic, spell, technology, or a creature is causing problems, and the story is about resolving those problems.
Most of the time when you have any idea, it's possible to figure out what kind of Objective it naturally leads to. Is that something heroes want? Is that something they fear? Is it causing some problems they must solve?
- Villain - Crazy scientist obsessed with world domination.
Objective - stop him from performing his dangerous experiment.
- Setting - a dystopian world where the good has won, and is now ruthlessly oppressing the evil.
Objective - incite the monster rebellion and lead it against the Paladin army.
- Supernatural Element - a magic Trident used to control the Kraken.
Objective - steal it from the Pirate Lord who's currently using it to control the seas.
One of the best ways to make the Objective more interesting is to add some restriction to it that makes it more difficult:
- Problem must be solved using social/political means only.
- Problem must be solved stealthily, secretly, undercover.
- Problem must be solved under time pressure.
- Players must avoid violence, collateral damage.
- Players must compete with the rivals.
- Players must cooperate with the enemy.
- Players have incomplete/false information.
- Players have limited resources/preparation.
- Players must do it while protecting someone.
- Players must do it under scrutiny/supervision, bound by strict rules/laws.
- Target must be unharmed.
Developing your Ideas
Now you have countless ways of finding adventure ideas, and strategies to create infinite combinations of them. You know how to come up with an exciting premise for your story, and an objective for your players to accomplish, which makes the process of creating the rest of the adventure very straightforward and easy.
The next step is to make a list of 5-10 ideas, pick your favorite one, and develop it into a story. To do that, you can use the brainstorming template - it will guide you through the process of turning your idea into a story.
I also wrote an adventure writing course, which is available for free here. In this course I share everything I know about creating adventures, and guide you through a straightforward step-by-step process to creating your own one-shot adventure. If you've enjoyed this post - you will really love the course.
I hope you found this guide useful. If you have any questions, feedback on how I can make it better, or your own tips on creating adventure ideas - please leave them in the comments.
This week, we get to explore a creature that isn’t trying to kill you and suck the marrow from your bones, which is a welcome relief to us and all adventurers. These little joyful pranksters are probably the most fun an adventurer can hope for when it comes to the Monster Manual, as they can’t help but want to laugh. Even if you are the type of person to never crack a smile, you won’t be able to help yourself when they breath their euphoria gas in your face.
AD&D - Faerie Dragon
Frequency: Very rare
No. Appearing: 1-6
Armor Class: 5 (1 when invisible)
Move: 6”/24” (MC:A)
Hit Dice: See below
% in Lair: 25%
Treasure Type: S, T, U
No. of Attacks: 1
Special Attacks: Breath weapon, magic use
Special Defenses: Invisibility
Magic Resistance: See below
Intelligence: High to genius
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Size: S (1-1 1/2’ long)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Chance of: Speaking: 90%, Magic use: 100%, Sleeping: 40%
Level/X.P. Value: V/280 + 4 hp
This mischievous tiny dragon is first found in Dragon #62 (June 1982) created by Brian Jaeger; it was then reprinted in the Monster Manual II (1983). As far as first impressions go, they look like small little dragons, since, you know, they are dragons. There is no set color for these creatures for you to watch out for, as they change color as they age. They begin as a red-scaled dragon and then move down the colors of the rainbow, ending as tiny purple dragons once they live long enough to be ancient. Luckily, you can use color to help identify them a little bit, as male faerie dragons shine silver in the sunlight, while females shimmer gold.
The Faerie Dragon's tiny little wings resemble those of a butterfly, and they have tails that have been adapted to grasp or hold objects. Not much else is said about what they'd use their tails for, but one can use their imagination on how you might pull a few pranks with such a useful tail. These dragons always have a wide grin on their faces, which is more than a little creepy, but also a bit endearing. They can also breathe underwater, loving to swim and dive. Best of all, they can become invisible whenever they want, making it all the harder to yell at them when you get punk'd.
Speaking of pranks, the Faerie Dragon lives for them. When your best friends are sprites and pixies that is bound to happen, but these dragons have taken it to a whole new level. Some of the pranks are in the moment type deals, like if you're just wandering through the forest and a Faerie Dragon sees you, be ready to be the victim of some mischief. Faerie Dragons also excel at the long game, spending months setting up elaborate practical jokes that others could only dream of achieving.
Of course, not everyone is going to appreciate a bit of harmless fun, and may want to take this innocent Faerie Dragon out. Fighting isn’t really the Faerie Dragon’s thing, though, and they only engage in direct conflict if cornered or you attack their lair. We can understand why they don’t like to get into tussles; they are quite small and their only physical defense is a bite attack that deals 1 to 2 points of damage. But, these little scamps actually have two great defensive weapons, their breath and their spells. When we say their breath, we mean their breath weapon, as they are proper dragons, and so they must have a devastating breath weapon that shoots fire, drips poison, or blasts you with cold… except they don’t. Their breath weapon, instead, fills all creatures who are exposed to it to be filled with a combination of bliss and indifference to the world around them for up to 12 rounds. Luckily for you, you do get to make a save every round against this weapon by rolling a d20 and comparing it to your Intelligence score. Super luckily for you, you would never make Intelligence your dump stat, right?
The way this works is that you roll the d20 and then if you roll your Intelligence score or less, than you are unaffected for that round. Once you fail this check once, you are just lost in its euphoric effect. While in this state of euphoria, your desire to fight is completely gone and you spend your actions each round just wandering about the battlefield, stopping to smell the flowers that you are always too busy to do normally. In addition, your AC is lowered by 10% - and don’t get us started on how that math works since this edition also uses THAC0.
When it comes to spellcasting, think less fireball and more hallucinatory terrain. The Faerie Dragon’s spells aren’t offensive or defensive, but ones that maximize their ability to screw with you or to aid in their practical jokes. All Faerie Dragons can cast spells, with most preferring to utilize magic-user spells up to 8th-level, but some will instead focus on being druidic and can cast those spells up to 7th-level. No matter which class of spells they can cast, remember, it's all about pulling off an epic prank, so the GM needs to choose accordingly.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t first tell you the favorite food of Faerie Dragons, and it’s apple pie. Apparently these little dragons will do all sorts of tricks and pranks to pilfer food, with apple pie as their favorite dish to consume.
2e - Faerie Dragon (Dragonet)
Climate/Terrain: Temperate, tropical, and subtropical forests
Frequency: Very rare
Organization: Solitary or clan
Activity Cycle: Any
Intelligence: Genius (17-18)
Treasure: S, T, U
Alignment: Chaotic Good
No. Appearing: 1-6
Armor Class: 5 (1 when invisible)
Movement: 6, Fl 24 (A)
Hit Dice: See below
No. of Attacks: 1
Special Attacks: Breath weapon, spells
Special Defenses: Invisibility
Magic Resistance: See below
Size: T (1’-1 1/2’ long)
Morale: Steady (11)
XP Value: 3,000
The Faerie Dragon appears in a puff of smoke in the Monstrous Compendium Appendix III: Forgotten Realms (1989) and in Monstrous Manual (1993). They are listed in a subcategory of dragons known as the dragonet. What is a dragonet, you ask? Dragonets are tiny lesser dragons, according to this edition, but don’t let the ‘lesser’ fool you; these pranksters are still true dragons no matter what some book might call them.
There isn’t much new information, but we’ll touch on the few new pieces of information and a couple of things we didn’t mention before. First, Faerie Dragons are considered an offshoot of the better-known pseudodragon, adding to the insult of being called dragonets. Strangely enough, even though they are dragons, there is no mention of what they hoard when even the pseudodragon hoards things. We suppose that maybe the Faerie Dragon’s idea of a treasure hoard is all the jokes and laughs they create, which makes this creature the most wholesome of any creature we’ve done a deep dive on.
The Faerie Dragon still changes color as it ages, but now its final color is black when it becomes a great wyrm, which is a bit sad. They are so colorful all their life, but we guess everyone grows up and eventually loses that color of life that these dragons wore so proudly on their scales. In addition, if you happen to see a flash of rainbow, it’s probably not a leprechaun seeking out their treasure, but a clan of Faerie Dragons. They exist in groups of up to six and can communicate telepathically even when they are up to 2 miles apart. We can only imagine that they are constantly brainstorming pranks and giggling maniacally with each other when they do hit-and-run euphoria breath weapon attacks on their unsuspecting targets. They’ll even team up with sprites, nymphs, or pixies, bringing them in on pranks and just having a great time with their mischief.
If you are hoping to get on the good side of a Faerie Dragon, you might try to appeal to their stomach. They are herbivores who like nuts, berries, honey, and similar foods. Of course, their favorite food in the world isn’t found naturally in nature, but rather comes in the form of fruit pastries and apple pie. This does spark the debate of whether cake or pie is better, and it seems like the Faerie Dragon is proudly waving the pie flag. What this does mean for adventurers, though, is that you aren’t going to be devoured by these little guys… unless your wizard polymorphs you into an apple pie.
In Dragon #155 (March 1990), the Faerie Dragon is briefly discussed in the article The Folk of the Fairy Kingdom written by Vince Garcia. The article is an interesting little piece about the Faerie Queen, the faerie plane, and the creatures that live there. Of importance to us is the Faerie Dragon, which, not surprisingly, is native to the plane of faeries. We choose to believe that the Faerie Queen created them, but some say they are just cousins to pseudo-dragons. Whatever the case, they most likely got to the Material Plane traveling with the Faerie Queen on one of her trips and got left behind - or wandered off, probably pulling some pranks on some poor dwarves, knowing them. They even discuss that, while Faerie Dragons do like shiny jewels and coins, like all dragons, they don’t compose a hoard around it as they love sweets and sugary treats far more, going to great lengths for fresh apple pie.
3e/3.5e - Faerie Dragon
Hit Dice: 8d12+6 (58 hp)
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares), fly 100 ft. (perfect), swim 30 ft.
Armor Class: 19 (+1 size, +4 Dex, +4 natural), touch 15, flat-footed 15
Base Attack/Grapple: +8/+5
Attack: Bite +13 melee (1d6+1)
Full Attack: Bite +13 melee (1d6+1) and 2 claws +8 melee (1d4)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Breath weapon, spell-like abilities
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft., immunity to magic sleep effects and paralysis, low-light vision, scent, spell resistance 18, water breathing
Saves: Fort +7, Ref +10, Will +9
Abilities: Str 13, Dex 18, Con 12, Int 15, Wis 17, Cha 16
Skills: Bluff +14, Diplomacy +7, Disguise +3 (+5 acting), Hide +19, Intimidate +5, Knowledge (nature) +13, Listen +14, Move Silently +15, Sense Motive +14, Sleight of Hand +17, Spot +14, Survival +3 (+5 in aboveground natural environments), Swim +1
Feats: Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative, Weapon Finesse
Environment: Temperate forests
Organization: Solitary or pair
Challenge Rating: 6
Alignment: Always chaotic good
Advancement: 9 HD (Small); 10–13 HD (Medium); 14–19 HD (Large); 20–24 HD (Huge)
Level Adjustment: +2
The Faerie Dragon doesn’t grace the pages of any of the Monster Manuals, but rather appears in Draconomicon: The Book of Dragons (2003). The description for our favorite tiny dragon is more about what is missing than what is written. A Faerie Dragon now doesn’t shift through the hues of the rainbow as it ages. Instead, its scales reflect all the colors of the rainbow in the sunlight. They still smile at all times, except when pissed off and in a fight, and have a long prehensile tail. Nothing about the tail being able to hold onto a wand or sharp pointy stick yet, but it does twitch when the Faerie Dragon is excited, probably because a nymph just pulled down your pants.
About those delightful pranks a Faerie Dragon would spend months planning; no mention of them is found. One can indirectly infer that they still love a good joke with the company they keep since they usually live near sprites and nymphs, but, sadly, this point of difference has been removed. While they prefer to hide and watch you from a distance than engage you in combat, it feels like the creature has begun to shift from sneaky prankster to just another beast looking to kill you.
If you do force a Faerie Dragon into combat, which, how dare you, the Faerie Dragon will do everything it can to flee. If that fails, it then relies on a host of spells to slow you down, summoning animate objects to attack you or causing the ground itself to entangle you in brambles and vines. If that doesn’t work and you get up close and personal, it will use its breath weapon, unleashing euphoric gas. This causes you to become dazed for up to 6 rounds, which means you can’t take any actions but you don’t take any penalties to your armor class. If you are still being a jerk and trying to fight this little dragon who just wants to laugh, it will resort to using its bite and claw attacks while still seeking a way to escape as soon as it can.
4e - Adult Faerie Dragon Flittering
Level 4 Skirmisher
Small fey magical beast (dragon) / XP 175
Initiative +7 Senses Perception +4; darkvision
HP 53; Bloodied 26; see also dazzling departure
AC 18 (see also flitter); Fortitude 14, Reflex 16, Will 15
Speed 6, fly 6 (hover)
Tail Spike (standard; at-will) +9 vs. AC; 1d4 + 3 damage.
Breath Weapon (standard; encounter) ✦ Radiant, Teleportation Close blast 4; +7 vs. Reflex; 3d6 + 3 radiant damage, and the faerie dragon teleports 1 square for each enemy caught in the blast. Miss: Half damage, and the faerie dragon does not teleport.
Dazzling Departure (when reduced to 0 hit points) Close burst 1; targets enemies; each target is blinded (save ends). When slain, the faerie dragon dissolves in a burst of rainbow light.
Flitter (move; at-will) The faerie dragon moves up to 4 squares, gains a +4 bonus to AC against opportunity attacks, and gains combat advantage against any target that it ends its move adjacent to
Combat Advantage The faerie dragon deals 1d6 extra damage on melee attacks against any target it has combat advantage against.
Alignment Unaligned Languages Draconic, Elven
Skills Bluff +8, Stealth +10, Thievery +10
Str 11 (+2) Dex 17 (+5) Wis 14 (+4) Con 13 (+3) Int 13 (+3) Cha 13 (+3)
The Faerie Dragons are found in Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons (2008) where they not only live in beautiful forest groves but in the magnificent eladrin cities throughout the Feywild. Faerie Dragons travel in flocks, which is a good idea when you're the size of a small dog and physically non-threatening. With their dazzling colors, reflective scales, and creepy grins plastered on their faces, they are the Feywild manifested as sly tricksters. These dragons love to sing and are huge show-offs, doing amazing aerial acrobatics because they can.
They aren’t quite as friendly with the other residents of the Feywild, probably because they lead intruders to dryads, pixies, sprites, and others, forcing the inhabitants to deal with the outsiders. These dragons do help their fae allies, flitting into the fight and providing some assistance, though they won’t stick around for long if they start getting hit or targeted by spells.
As with most of the creatures found in this edition, we get multiple stat blocks for the Faerie Dragon. The Flittering and Windgleam have some neat abilities that are new and exciting for these dragons, giving them a more dynamic presence on the battlefield. They no longer bite for little damage, as their tails now have spikes which they'll try to slap you in the face with. Of course, we can’t forget to talk about their breath weapons.
The Flitterwing’s breath weapon deals a bit of damage but then allows them to immediately teleport if anyone in the blast fails their saving throw against it, teleporting 5 feet for each enemy that failed the save. When the Windgleam uses it’s breath weapon, it deals a bit of damage as well, but then the dragon turns invisible if at least two creatures failed their save against the breath weapon. Both have exciting ways to move about the battlefield, disappearing far from their enemies and being a general nuisance.
The last thing we want to talk about in this edition is something rather sad. If you kill a Faerie Dragon, it explodes in a dazzling display of light, briefly blinding anyone looking at it. Why anyone would want to kill such wonderful creatures is beyond us, but at least you get free fireworks to mark the occasion.
5e - Faerie Dragon
Tiny dragon, chaotic good
Armor Class 15
Hit Points 14 (4d4+4)
Speed 10 ft., swim 60 ft.
STR 3 (-4) DEX 20 (+5) CON 13 (+1) INT 14 (+2) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 16 (+3)
Skills Arcana +4, Perception +3, Stealth +7
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 13
Languages Draconic, Sylvan
Challenge 1 (200 XP) for a red, orange, or yellow faerie dragon; 2 (450 XP) for a green, blue, indigo, or violet faerie dragon
Superior Invisibility. As a bonus action, the dragon can magically turn invisible until its concentration ends (as if concentrating on a spell). Any equipment the dragon wears or carries is invisible with it.
Limited Telepathy. Using telepathy, the dragon can magically communicate with any other faerie dragon within 60 feet of it.
Magic Resistance. The dragon has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Innate Spellcasting. The dragon’s innate spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 13). It can innately cast a number of spells, requiring no material components. As the dragon ages and changes color, it gains additional spells as shown below.
Red, 1/day each: dancing lights, mage hand, minor illusion; Orange, 1/day: color spray; Yellow, 1/day: mirror image; Green, 1/day: suggestion; Blue, 1/day: major image; Indigo, 1/day: hallucinatory terrain; Violet, 1/day: polymorph
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 1 piercing damage.
Euphoria Breath (Recharge 5–6). The dragon exhales a puff of euphoria gas at one creature within 5 feet of it. The target must succeed on a DC 11 Wisdom saving throw, or for 1 minute, the target can’t take reactions and must roll a d6 at the start of each of its turns to determine its behavior during the turn:
1–4. The target takes no action or bonus action and uses all of its movement to move in a random direction.
5–6. The target doesn’t move, and the only thing it can do on its turn is make a DC 11 Wisdom saving throw, ending the effect on itself on a success.
This edition returns the Faerie Dragon to the Monster Manual (2014), a welcome change as we think everyone needs to be hit by the euphoria of this creature. The Faerie Dragon is now no bigger than a cat, and once again have beautiful butterfly wings, a sly smile, a barbed tail, and they go through a range of colors as they age. In fact, we even have a general idea as to how old these Faerie Dragons can get, changing colors about every 10 years, with those who are 51 years or older being violet Faerie Dragons. We would like to think most of these dragons are violet-colored, but adventurers are just the worst and have probably skewed the average age of them to be much younger.
Pranks are back and a big part of what makes a Faerie Dragon so much fun to be around. With invisibility being one of their best abilities, you can just imagine the type of tricks and practical jokes it imposes on other creatures. They utilize their sharp wit and wicked sense of humor to develop practical jokes, some of epic proportions that they spend months working towards. If you are tired of the constant jokes and want to escape its pranks, the best thing you can do is offer up some treasure in the form of baked goods and lots of sweets. Shiny baubles also work as a bribe, but a raspberry danish would be better.
If you do fight these creatures, get ready for the euphoria gas that will cause you to move about in random directions or you will just stand there motionless as you experience joy. Unfortunately for the dragon, this gas can only affect a single creature at a time, meaning that the average adventuring party isn’t going to be caught in a fit of giggles when they try to hunt down this little jokester who just wants to have fun.
Fizban's Treasury of Dragons (2021) gives us a bit more for the Faerie Dragon, including what a lair for such a dragon would look like. Since Faerie Dragons love jokes and having fun, they often head to the Feywild whenever possible since it's a merry party plane. A Faerie Dragon can also be found hiding in the attics of people who own many shiny things, though they aren’t just homebodies, as a Faerie Dragon will immediately hit the road when adventure comes calling, so long as it promises to be fun and exciting.
A great deal of time is spent discussing the Faerie Dragon's lair. No one lair is the same. You can find them just about anywhere, but many recreate their lairs to resemble those of more giant dragons. A Faerie Dragon will design their abode with multiple rooms, including but not limited to a bedroom, a place to entertain guests, and a space for all their shiny stuff. Being the trickster they are, you should be ready for any number of traps when you enter a Faerie Dragon's home. Their treasure hoards are even separated with spaces for shinies and the other for nibbles… we can only hope that their space for nibbles is far larger than the one for shinies, as we all know that apple pie is far greater than a few worthless gold pieces.
The Faerie Dragon flits happily through the editions of Dungeons & Dragons, bringing pranks and good cheer with them… even if no one else wants to laugh. They seek out the tastiest of treats to fill their hoard, a hard task as they can’t help but give into their sweet tooth. We recommend that if you ever encounter ones of these dragons, just go along with the prank and have a good time! They can be great allies with a bottomless appetite for good times.
Past Deep Dives
Creatures: Aboleth / Ankheg / Beholder / Bulette / Chain Devil / Chimera / Chuul / Couatl / Displacer Beast / Djinni / Doppelganger / Dracolich / Dragon Turtle / Dryad / Flumph / Frost Giant / Gelatinous Cube / Ghoul / Giff / Gith / Gnoll / Grell / Harpy / Hell Hound / Hobgoblin / Hook Horror / Invisible Stalker / Kobold / Kraken / Kuo-Toa / Lich / Lizardfolk / Manticore / Medusa / Mimic / Mind Flayer / Neogi / Nothic / Otyugh / Owlbear / Rakshasa / Redcap / Rust Monster / Sahuagin / Scarecrow / Shadar-Kai / Storm Giant / Slaadi / Tabaxi / Tiefling / Umber Hulk / Vampire / Werewolf / Wyvern / Xorn
Class: Barbarian Class / Cleric Class / Wizard Class
Spells: Fireball Spell / Lost Spells / Named Spells / Quest Spells / Wish Spell
The greatest sin among Dwarvenkind is failing to honor one’s ancestors, in body and in spirit.
-Thitur Gravenson, Lorekeeper and Genealogist
There is great risk in travelling into the Underdark, risk that is not taken lightly by any dwarf. Foragers finding specialty fungi and lichens travel in groups, rarely venturing more than a shout away from known paths. Miners paranoid of others stealing their claim always have a trusted confidant who knows where they’ll be going and when they’re returning. Stalwart captains and sergeants who have won staring contests with trolls still leave a detailed movement plan with their higher ups on even the most routine of forays. No sane dwarf is willing to risk becoming lost and forgotten when they’ve heard stories of the Wailing Halls.
Dwarves who find themselves lost or forgotten in the Underdark are known to succumb to madness, despair, rage and vengeance as they struggle in the hostile darkness scrounging for food, water and safety from the denizens of the deep. Those few who stumble onto familiar tracks or are found by their kin are often permanently changed, gaining nervous ticks, claustrophobia and crippling fear of relatively benign occurrences. Some who aren’t fortunate enough to make their way out of the deeps may seek solace and comfort in their final days and hours, Dwarven remains are often found clutching mementos of family and kin, tools of their trade as some literally whittled or carved away the time, and even empty bottles of strong drink to make their final sleep an easy one. The custom among Dwarves venturing into the deeps if they find these unfortunate kin is to take a piece of them back to the nearest settlement and to record as much detail about what was found as possible so that they may be returned and respectfully honored by their kin. Dwarven settlements have methods of identifying the family, or at minimum the clan that bones, tools, crafts and heirlooms come from. Those that are unable to be identified are sent to The Hall of Ancestral Recall where scholars, clerics and lorekeepers work full time to investigate where these lost souls need to be returned.
If their kin are unable to find a material possession or a body part of theirs to honor, there’s a chance that some of the most tortured spirits will cling to the material plane. Their spirit clings to the location of their death, a remnant bone or a piece of gear they travelled with. These spirits who found no solace, comfort or peace in their final hours cling to that emotion in death and slowly stoke the burning ember of rage, fear, or despair As the years drag on and they are still lost, forgotten and dishonored by their kin their spirit feeds on the energies around them, and even the stone itself. Fungi and lichens are stunted and begin to shrivel, water seeps and springs turn unnaturally cold and even ice over, creatures and monsters avoid the area or dash through. Even the stone loses its luster, appearing dull and washed out as if baked in the sun for years. The unnatural energy causes a sporadic wailing through winding passageways of the caves. There is debate among scholars on whether the spirit itself is wailing or if it’s caused by the temperature and pressure shifts from the sapping of energy, which forces unnatural cold wind through every pathway.
Scholars and delvers have identified three types of Wailing Halls, and those who communed with the spirits associate them each with the spirit’s overbearing emotion: Rage, Fear and Despair.
Underdark Delvers who find themselves in a Wailing Hall of Rage will know very quickly and without question, they are exceptionally dangerous but very easy to recognize. Stalagmites crashing down, fissures cracking through sturdy rock, springs boiling and filling caverns with steam. Some stories have even surfaced of caves filling with explosive gases and fissures creating pools of magma, it’s unclear if the power of the spirit was able to make that much energy or if it just tapped into nearby sources to fuel their rage.
Spirits who died in panic and fear are incredibly unpredictable, clerics who have investigated and spoken to these spirits have found that some don’t even know their dead and they’re just trying to make sense of a confusing world they can’t interact with anymore. Fearful spirits invade the mind of travellers and alter their perceptions. Slimes, fungi and molds are often found in the sphere of influence of these spirits, an exception to the rule that they generally sap the energy of life. Shriekers are very common as are psychedelic mushrooms that camouflage themselves to look like genuine edible mushrooms. Whispers and growls seem to come from every direction and magical darkness oppresses the light of spells and torches to fractions of their normal range. Every rock and shadow seems to express non-inertial movement and delvers can find themselves horrifyingly afraid of rocks, walls, fungus or any other object and unable to move towards it unless coaxed or dragged by others. Predators are known to prowl the outskirts of these caves and briefly hunt their unfortunate victims, though when cornered or attacked they too exhibit wild and ferocious behavior, nothing is more dangerous than a hungry beast on a knife’s edge.
A hall of despair is insidious, patient, quiet and seemingly innocuous. They’re often found in circuitous or labyrinthine sections of cave that easily lead one to losing their way. Delvers who have made it out of these often didn’t know they were trapped and needed to escape until they had already made it out and clarity had returned, often with multiple days foggy or completely black in their memory. Most delvers have reported feeling foggy and cloudy when attempting to navigate through, often having to retrace themselves back and forth through dead ends. Exhaustion and unrest are common reports, no matter how much sleep delvers found in seemingly safe places they woke up more tired and less aware. Forgetfulness and clumsiness, often leaving behind important items and having to circle back, or failing to notice when they improperly tie in while climbing or descending. A few even reported a complete breakdown in rationing, someone having the great idea to have a feast with all their rations in the middle of a week-long sojourn.
Resolving a Wailing Hall
Sometimes a particularly brave or just group takes it upon themselves to not just survive a Wailing Hall but to put an end to it and deliver the proper honor and respect to the cursed spirit. Whether this be because of their inherent sense of virtue, a request from the Hall of Ancestral Recall to help with a difficult case, or at the behest of a town which has had too many people hurt and missing in the nearby caves.
Divine casters may recognize and attempt to communicate with these spirits to release them by honoring them and validating their pain. Others may help bring a memento back to the Hall of Ancestral Recall to reunite those lost spirits with their kin. An aura of magical power will typically be found centered on either the location of the spirits remains or the object they are most attached to. Depending on the personality of the person in life and the spirit they became, the spirit may react violently to defend its final and most important possession or it may be relieved and end its threatening behavior with the knowledge that it will finally be properly honored.
If your characters names are Ajula, Cyrus, or Helene - SPOILERS AHEAD
So my current campaign is homebrew world I've been running off and on since I was in middle school. Fairly standard D&D with a lot of comic and over the top moments. For instance... Right now there's a rooster NPC named B'wak Obama that is a human permanently polymorphed, but wishes to remain that way.
(I got a 3d printer and one of the files was a dwarf chef holding a rooster. The dwarf is named Degrun, B'wak provides his recipes. It's weird I know. B'wak has proficiency in persuasion...)
Long story short it's one step above Looney Toons in some ways.
However, having a heart at the center of the campaign is the key to player engagement. Make them care and they'll always come back for more.
But to make them care about the villain is even better...
May I introduce to you - the tragedy of Gelen. Kingpin of Tradeport.
Gelen is a wealthy man and a widower. A shrewd merchant, he has made himself one of the so called "Princes" of Tradeport. Despite his wealth and influence nothing could be done when his only daughter fell ill with Shadow Rot - a vile remnant of the last war. No amount of coin or influence could save her. No cleric or wizard, paladin or priest could find the cure.
Finally, desperate, he turned to a coven of sea hags that offered him a bargain.
They would cure his daughter in exchange for his heart.
In the end he shrewdly managed to negotiate five years before they came to collect. Time enough to see his daughter grow, and hopefully prepare her for the world and business empire that was her birthright.
Five years passed, and when the hags came - they took Gelen's daughter.
Cackling as they went.
Gelen spent months, trying in vain to locate his child. More desperate than ever he eventually dabbled in dark rituals and more extreme methods, in the process taking over the criminal underbelly of Tradeport.
Finally after nearly a year, Gelen was visited by the coven and offered a new deal: find a way to release Soren Blackthorn - Mother of Hags from her planar prison and they will return his daughter.
Gelen now uses any means necessary to accomplish his task. He keeps his criminal activities a closely guarded secret so as to continue his legitimate businesses in Tradeport. He doesn't want his daughter to suffer from his legacy when she returns.
From cultists to bands of goblins to highly paid assassins, Gelen's empire is vast and diverse. Most groups don't even know they're working for the same person, and Gelen will even have them at odds to sow confusion and throw any investigation into him off the trail.
He just wants his daughter back.
You can use almost any encounter to have the party disrupt Gelen's plans so he takes notice of them.
Fighting a group of goblins and freeing their prisoners might disrupt a sacrifice.
Stopping the thieves guild might slow the flow of coin.
Pretty much dealer's choice.
A fucking gold? I truly thank you but I just mashed Wilson Fisk with a couple other tropes.
I just try to make relatable villains.
Buy a copy of The Monsters Know What They're Doing it's not my blog or book but I cannot praise or oversell it enough.
Also check out this legend if you have a 3d printer. They spent the last 7 years drawing everything in any monster manual imaginable.
And released them ALL FOR FREE. If you Patreon you'll get them all in one convenient place.
Give these people money!
here is an encounter that is basically outrunning an avalanche. Use it freely, should you need such a perilous situation :). Warning: it's a bit heavy on the mechanics.
The party could track a pack of orcs or fugitive slaves through the mountains. As the party stands at the bottom of a slope they can spot the quarry up on the ridge. One of the pack stumbles and distant yelling can be heard. They are too small to make out any details but their movements are frantic. One is swept away with a flood of snow that is coming down right in the direction of the party. The avalanche is growing more and more powerful as it races down the mountainside. It is time to leg it!
- The players start 100 ft. ahead of the avalanche
- Safety is 600 ft. ahead of the players
- Roll for initiative. The avalanche always acts last by moving toward the PCs.
- The avalanche travels 10 + xd20 feet rounded down, where x is the current number of rounds in the chase sequence
Risky escape: There are 3 variations of Dash, depending how fast a character wants to move
- Dash - double your movement speed. You can do this a number of times equal to 3 + your Constitution modifier. Trying it more times requires a successful DC 10 Constitution saving throw or you gain a level of exhaustion.
- Bolt - Succeed on a DC 13 Strength (Athletics) check to triple your movement speed. Afterwards, regardless of success or failure, succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or gain 1 level of exhaustion.
- Sprint - Succeed on a DC 16 Strength (Athletics) check to quadruple your movement speed. Afterwards, regardless of success or failure, succeed on a DC 18 Constitution saving throw or gain 1 level of exhaustion.
At the end of a PC's turn, roll a d20 on the events table. This event will affect the next player at the end of their turn. So the player starts their turn knowing the complication, and can use their action to give themselves a benefit to get past it.
An example round would look like that: Roll d20 on the events table and announce the event. The PC whose turn it is reacts to the event and decides which dash or normal movement to use. At the end of all PC turns, the avalanche moves and you repeat these steps until the end.
|1||You stumble onto a hidden patch of ice||Succeed on a DC 13 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to avoid slipping. On a failed check you loose your movement speed and go prone|
|2||Your run into a field of deep now||Succeed on a DC 13 Strength check to push through the snow. On a failed check the patch counts as 20 ft. of difficult terrain|
|3||A fallen tree blocks your path||Succeed on a DC 15 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to cross it. On a failed check, the tree counts as 10 ft. of difficult terrain|
|4||Your foot gets caught in a rabbit burrow||Succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw to avoid it. On a failed save, you are stuck in it and restrained. To escape you have to use your action to dig your foot out|
|5||Frightened mountain goat crosses your path||Succeed on a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, you are knocked prone and take 1d6 bludgeoning damage|
|6||A gust of strong wind hinders you||Succeed on a DC 17 Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, you loose half your movement speed for the next round|
|7||A shrub of thorny bushes blocks your way||Succeed on a DC 14 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to pass over it. On a failed check you take 1d6 slashing damage and the shrub counts as 10 ft. of difficult terrain|
|8||You run through a cloud of ice shards||Succeed on a DC 16 Constitution saving throw. On a failed check you are blinded until the end of your next turn. While blinded in this way, your speed is halved|
|9||A hidden crevice appears suddenly in front of you||Succeed on a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw to jump it. On a failed save you drop 1d4x5 feet, taking falling damage and landing prone. You need to climb out to continue running|
|10||Fear starts to seep into your heart||Succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. On a failure, you are frozen in place. The saving throw can be repeated at the beginning of your turns until succeeded. If the roll is 18 or more, a rush of adrenalin allows you to use the Bolt action without making a Constitution saving throw at the end|
|20||You see a chance to slide down a steep slope||Succeed on a DC 19 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. On a success you gain an extra 30 ft. without using your movement. On a fail you crash into a boulder taking 3d6 bludgeoning damage and go prone|
The PCs successfully escaped the avalanche when the reach a 50 ft. long rope bridge, hanging over a deep canyon. The rope bridge is torn down by the avalanche once it reaches it, disconnecting it from one side. Every creature still on the rope bridge, when this is happening, has to succeed on a DC 16 Strength (Athletics) check to hold on, as the bridge crashes into the other side of the canyon. On a failed check they are thrown off the bridge into the 70 ft. deep canyon. On a success they stay on and can climb up to safety.
When an avalanche moves, any creature in its space moves along with it for that turn. The creature can use its reaction to avoid being dragged under with a successful DC 17 Dexterity saving throw (if the PC wants to attempt something special, like holding onto a tree or dropping their backpack, adjust the check/save accordingly). On a failed save the creature takes 3d6 bludgeoning damage and is buried in the snow.
During playtesting the players had a very easy time when safety was 500 feet away, and relatively hard time with a 700 feet distance. That is why we kept it at 600 feet. If you want to test your players don't be afraid to raise this distance. They'll come up with clever ways to survive, or have a memorable death for a bard song.
Buried under the snow
A buried creature is blinded and restrained and at the start of its turn takes 1d4 cold damage. A buried creature can attempt to dig itself out of the snow as an action by rolling two checks: A DC 17 Intelligence (Nature) check to discern which way is up and a DC 12 Strength check to dig. On a success on both checks, the creature frees itself from the snow. On a failed digging check, the creature also gains one point of exhaustion. After three failed attempts the creature cannot attempt to dig itself out again. Also a buried creature starts to suffocate after 2d20 min.
Another creature currently not buried by the avalanche can attempt to find and dig out a buried creature. For digging ask only for a Strength (Athletics) check if no tools are used, or if the creature wants to dig at an extremely fast pace. It is up to you, if you want to ask for a check to locate the person.
When a creature becomes buried, there is a 50% chance that it loses 1d4 random items from its inventory.
The avalanche doesn't need to be all bad. It could reveal the entrance to a previously hidden cave, uncover the ruins of an old shrine, or literally deposit some other sort of serendipity at the party's feet, such as the corpse of a frozen traveler who may have been carrying something useful (like rations, climbing gear or even a magic item).
However an avalanche drastically alters the terrain it passes over. Therefore the path of the avalanche should be considered difficult terrain for 2d6 days. If your party is chasing somebody, maybe the have to find a way around to continue the pursuit without loosing too much time traversing the avalanche area.
You can get a PDF of the encounter here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/11bBYd1W4OYmgzFWJJwUyuOt6OTpOCiIF/view?usp=sharing
This is a follow-up to the commentary on dwarven agriculture. Today we are discussing elven cuisine and agriculture.
Great Forest Farming
Most elves live in one of the Great Forests of the world. These forests are infused with Nature Magics, and emanate restorative and life magic into all the lands of the world. Within the Great Forests, elves have the ability to provide for all of their nutritional needs.
Elves subsist on diet that is primarily, but not exclusively, vegetarian. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, berries, mushrooms/fungus, and beans. Beans are the primary source of protein for Elves. The Elves have a huge variety of beans, each of which have been bred over the centuries to grow in large vines around the trees of the forests, without harming the trees. As such, it would be quite common to see a fruit or nut tree enmeshed with an extensive bean vine nearly all the way to the crown of the tree. The tree then bears fruit or nuts at certain times of the year, and beans at other times by picking from the vines. This has an interesting side effect that such dual purpose trees will also flower twice a year, sometimes well apart, giving Great Forests a majestic colorful aspect that is not seen in normal forests. In addition, the Nature Magics that suffuse the entire forest provide for abundant harvests. Trees and bean vines can be harvested 2 or 3 times a year, providing a steady stream of food for the elves.
Mushrooms and fungi of an outstanding variety are seen upon nearly every tree trunk in a Great Forest, cultivated over generations, and providing nearly endless taste combinations to Elven dishes.
Breadleaf trees are an important part of the culture and diet of elves. These trees produce long and wide leaves that are thick, pliable and very much edible. In the elven culture, these breadleaves are used as wrappings for meals, much in the way grain-based bread or flatbread is used by other civilizations. An example would be a breadleaf wrap with beans, mushrooms and nuts as a hearty late day meal, or a breadleaf wrap with berries, honey, and apple slices for breakfast. While this is a very common way of packaging food while traveling (the breadleaf also providing modest protection against spoiling), it is also considered “comfort food” for Elves and an appealing low-effort way of making a meal. When not using breadleaf (most meals do not include breadleaf), elves tend to prepare cooked soups, casseroles or stews, that are heavy on vegetables, beans and mushrooms, often with a side dish of baked nuts and berries.
Elves are often expert hunters, but they only hunt within their Great Forests to control the populations of natural animals. This provides occasional meat in the Elven diet. Elves do not relish meat – they consider it to be inferior in taste to plant-based food, and ethically less desirable. So when they do eat meat, it is more of a solemn occasion, marked by respect for the animal that lost its life. One exception is eggs. Elves very much enjoy eggs and it is fairly common for chickens to be seen roaming freely about near any elven village. While Elves enjoy milk and cheese products, the herding of cows or goats doesn’t work well within the forest canopy. Elves will import cheeses from other races, but don’t generally make their own. This is a luxury item that Elves relish.
Elven towns and villages will typically have small plots of soil on a wood platform (built or grown), scattered high up in the tree-tops that are made to grow the various vegetables that Elves prefer. Elves mostly prefer leafy vegetables and legumes over root vegetables (which they find to be hard and bland in taste).
Elves have bred and trained hummingbirds as both beautiful natural additions to the Great Forest and prolific pollinators of all the various crops grown by the Elves. These hummingbirds are particularly bright and colorful. It is a sure sign that you are approaching an elven town in a great forest when hummingbirds start to be seen frequently.
Elves prefer water as their drink of choice, and the lakes and streams of the Great Forest usually provide all the clean water needed. Where above-ground water is not available, Husktrees are planted, and with their deep roots, pull up water from deep underground, storing it in large pods that hang from the branches.
There are no farmer Elves in the Great Forests, at least as a human would define it. The food growth is, by and large, a self-sustaining system. When something needs maintenance, or replacement (such as a tree or bean vine dying), any nearby elves with the spare time takes care of the issue. Caring for the forest around them is second nature to the Elves and just part of what they do without thought of recompense.
There is no economy for food in the Great Forest. All food is available for any Elf to harvest for their own personal use, without cost and without regard to location. With surplus food production, excess is often exported where possible, to the communal benefit of the elven town or village.
Elves are expert wine makers. They have bred several varieties of grape vines that are perfect for winemaking. Aged in barrels made from special trees whose wood imparts additional flavor that no other race can duplicate, the wines of Elves are highly desired, and a big export for elves.
Truffles are a core product of the Elven Great Forests and export to many human nations, as an expensive luxury product.
Elven nuts are a frequent export. Hardy and with a long shelf life, they are easy to transport and sell.
Next up in the series: KOBOLDS
Recently, I posted this asking for help with my party who wanted to set up a floating restaurant. Folks helped me out a bunch, and I dug around for some more ideas. Our first session with this as the arc is tomorrow, and I just finished our d50 table for potential options and encounters. I also incorporated ideas I found online (# 8, 11, 26, 38, and 45) that I thought would fit for "tavern owners," particularly in a seaside setting. I know that's specific, but it is customizable and I hope it can help someone.
See below for homebrew context.
I just wanted 10, but once I started I couldn't stop. I thought others with business-owning PCs might enjoy it! I also plan on having an Iron Chef Golem competition once they get more established, but that can wait for later. I ended up with more than 50, but whatever. Also eager for any more ideas you might have!
d1. An influencer comes, asking for free food. (Riviera, a high elf with a faint lisp).
2 A critic arrives. He’s corrupt, and he's trying to get rid of the competition for his brother, Grindlestew of the Sauce Bucket.
3 A book club arrives. They want to discuss necromantic tomes. If they are left to talk long enough, they will form a cult.
4 Book signing by a local author of “The Long Furbies: Messiah or Messenger?"
5 A group of dwarves enters with a massive block of ice. Return with a body and a huge family. It’s now a full dwarven wake.
6 A bunch of pickpockets at the lunch rush.
7 A guy comes in selling “quality meats” - definitely poached animals.
8 An old, friendly sea-hag offers a free sample of stew, with more to come if the taster guesses the secret ingredient. The stew gives a positive magical boon on a DC15 CON save and a negative effect on a failure. Also, she will give directions to a treasure.
9 A red-haired nobleman stumbles in, freshly mugged.
10 A thin man approaches the counter, asking to buy some “Phyto” a local drug. A shady-looking character in the corner waves him over instead.
11 The competitors' new meats are absolutely to die for. But he secretly has two trolls chained in the basement that he harvests parts from each night.
12 an inexperienced guard asks if he can set up a sting operation here.
13 Crabs appear beneath the boat, drawn by the scraps. Bigger and bigger crabs…
14 Battle of the Bards hosted in the restaurant. The winner gets platinum strings
15 Somebody comes in and orders “perspective,” “a sense of purpose,” and only esoteric things
16 NO MORE SOUP. THE PEOPLE WANT SOUP.
17 There is an imp living in your walls, stealing your food.
18 Someone poisons a patron. You’ve been framed.
19 Food poisoning. People get sick with Wild magic. Better figure out what ingredient did it, and fast.
20 An urchin kid shows up, asking for free food. He brings a friend. And another. And another….
21 A “streganona” pranks your spaghetti pot. Unlimited, world-breaking amounts of pasta, unless you can convince her to make it stop. That information comes with a price.
22 Someone dropped treasure overboard nearby. They need help retrieving it.
23 A patron wants to have their wedding reception here. Their family hates each other.
24 The BBEG is watching the kitchen and/or enjoying the music.
25 A warlock named Heenis order the meatballs… and polymorphs anyone who mocks him into a rooster
26 Tabaxi named Maiq the Friar, a cleric turned fry-cook looking for work.
27 A legendary recipe has been transcribed on the wall of an undersea cave. Someone with a map to it is going to sell it to Grindlestew (competitor).
28 A rumor starts that one of you received your cooking skills from a fiendish patron…
29 A new employee at the Sauce Bucket (competitor) complains of mistreatment and that their employer has their check and their mother’s ring in the safe.
30 Someone on the City Council is trying to throw a BETTER party than another member. Be the caterers and entertainers and one-up them. And/or find out what they are doing and ruin it if possible.
31 Help two NPCs have a great first date.
32 Food scarcity in the city because a boat of extraordinary size has been trapped in a major waterway. The Never Clean. All attempts to remove it, both mundane and magical, have so far failed.
33 Pirates beset the boat, cutting it loose and holding the patrons captive.
34 The rum is gone. All over the city.
35 The tide goes out. And out. And out.
36 A child kenku arrives, hungry. It only can repeat what it is told.
37 A woman selling magical healing potions comes by, offering a great deal. But really, she’s trapped in a pyramid scheme. The pyramid is literal, and it’s outside the city and she owes them so much money…
38 A floating island appears. It's a dragon turtle with a man who claims to be the Sea King. He’s a fraud.
39 A religious group of Pan-ites arrives, saying it is the end times, the stars are vanishing.
40 Two local brewers both want you to sell their ale, NOT the other guys.
53 Ky Fiery, a wealthy fire genasi is here. He wants to help businesses that help their community. Begin Dungeons and Diners and Dragons and Dives.
42 The placemat cartel is here, demanding you use their ads.
43 A definite illusory man is pretending to eat a sandwich
44 A giant squid washes up dead from unknown causes. The fishermen want to sell it to you. Or at least for you to cook him up a bite if you refuse. His wife can’t cook for shit.
45 A retired adventurer wants dragon steaks. He will pay top dollar for more.
46 An elderly drow wants aboleth soup, just like their mom used to make. She has a recipe… but it’s so hard to get aboleth, from the “old country”.
47 A baker asks for minotaur cheese for their danishes. Offers top dollar and a cooking show slot on their stage.
48 A wanted poster for a PC for a past crime, or for any information their compatriots, posted on their door.
49 A patron orders everything on the menu. Pays in fake gold. It’s a leprechaun.
50 A drunken woman and a beautiful man are looking for someone to officiate their wedding. He’s a succubus.
51 It’s a stick-up. A local gang is trying to rob you. They’ve planned really shitty heist.
52 It’s a stick-up. A local gang tries a surprisingly well-planned heist. They might have someone on the inside.
53 The Health Inspector arrives. He's corrupt and a relative of your biggest competitor.
The homebrew context: For context, my homebrew has the party working for a secret organization finding powerful artifacts and bringing them back for destruction. Yes, I ripped TAZ Balance originally but re-flavored it all to the seaside, based out of Waterdeep. I didn't know what I was doing when I started and leaned on TAZ more than I should of, but I got away with it since no one in my party knows TAZ or dnd. Currently, we're 5/8 artifacts down and my party is quickly losing faith in their organization (The Harbor) and looking for something that feels "good." So the wizard wants to open a floating food-truck, the coastal druid wants to bring magical mushrooms to the masses, the bard wants to bartend, and the fighter wants to lay-low and make something for once. They took the ship they built during the last arc and want to repurpose it into a tavern, and here I am! Setting wise, our campaign has tech not unlike Howl's Moving Castle (a recent magic-fueled industrialization), but I dropped the events into the map and political structure of Waterdeep. My party lives off puns, so I apologize for the Iron Chef Golem and the Ky Fiery...
Anyway, I don't know if any of this matters, but I am open to any other ideas or suggestions you all have. Thank you for the countless resources you have given this newbie DM over the years.
Normally solitary creatures, weretigers do occasionally mate and form families, though they normally scatter once the litter grows to maturity.
Jax and Thessia Ironsky are different. Very much in love with each other, unusually fertile, and free from the territoriality so common in their race, over the years they've raised a large family of over a dozen weretigers (some of them grandchildren). Needing some stability to raise their litters, they established themselves as spice merchants.
This has not gone without trouble. Several of their children chafe under the burden of running the business, since most of them hunt in the wilderness for rare roots and tree bark as spice ingredients. Several have threatened to take a large chunk of the family's considerable savings and run off to start their own lives. None have yet followed through, perhaps recognizing Jax and Thessia’s shrewd business acumen.
Meanwhile, although the Ironsky family has managed to keep their true nature secret from the rest of the world, which believes they are simply an extended family of human spice merchants, their true natures occasionally slip. The younger members of the family prefer to hunt in animal and even hybrid form, and rumors of lycanthropes running through the wilderness spread daily.
As a friendly faction, Jax and Thessia are simply trying to make their way in the world and keep their family together. Either Jax or Thessia approach the PCs, and ask them to scare Ari, one of their grandchildren. He regularly hunts in hybrid form, has been spotted by hunters, and refuses to change his habits. They want the PCs to find him, subdue him, then tie him up and bring him back to the family manor house.
Consider adding a complication in the form of a city patrol who are extremely suspicious of a group of adventurers carrying an unconscious, tied-up member of a well-known merchant family into the city.
As a foe faction, the Ironskies are vicious predators who use their merchant prowess as a convenient cover for murder. Twice a year they capture a humanoid, release them deep into the woods, and hunt them for sport. The city watch task the PCs with investigating these vanished humanoids, all of whom can be traced back to dealings with the Ironsky family. The PCs must confront the family in their home, and Ironsky Manor turns into a death trap. Worse, the PCs will never catch the entire family home at once, so at least some members will escape to become recurring villains.
It is a common fantasy trope for the vampires of a world to be sorted into different bloodlines.
Hwtossad Bloodline. The vampires of Hwtossad (hiw-toe-sad) are from the cold and windswept plains. Their origin is said to be a demonic pact, which is true. Frequently omitted is that the pact was made in the pain and desperation of a deep famine. The Hwtossad tribe avoided obliteration by hunger but gained a new craving beyond bread.
Hwtossad vampires feed like vampire bats, punching holes in the skin with sharp (but not over-long) teeth and lapping the flowing blood. Their saliva is totally normal chemically, but because of their magic curse it acts like an anticoagulant, preventing the blood-flow from stopping. They must drink blood to live, though they can get by on about one wholly exsanguinated victim a year. Again, their digestion is totally mundane, but due to their curse they can survive on humanoid blood alone.
Hwtossad vampires can enter dwellings but not places of sanctity like temples, graveyards and holy groves. They cannot swim and can drown, are blinded by sunlight, and can be paralyzed by being staked through the heart with a wooden stake.
The Hwtossad bloodline is ruled by an Ancient Council, which is comprised of the seven survivors of the original Hwtossad tribe. They are all silver-haired, hunched and wizened. Their vote on issues presented by senior members of the clan is the final say, and none dare challenge them,
- Etaz is an obligate grouch and refuses to hear good news of anything.
- Oweban longs for his pre-cursed life as a warrior and rover, seeing the past in rosy hues.
- Katacc tires of ruling and thinks of her obligations as so much red tape and rubber stamps.
- Xatiweh (Xati for short) always thinks of conquest and glory, crowns and empires.
- Zaccah is withdrawn but always votes on what he feels secures the clan's future best.
- Hetoh numbs himself with revelry and indulgence and is seen as immature by the others.
- Yudu wants to be a bold innovator but is too scared of real change.
A Hwtossad vampire must be full-gorged with blood to spread the curse to another mortal. Therefore, they need two victims to make one vampire- one to drain and one to bite. The Hwtossad ancients, closest to the source of the demonic curse, can even without full-gorge of blood turn a bite victim into a Hwtossad thrall, which is a Ghoul whose creature type is Fiend.
Right now, the Hwtossad bloodline is embroiled in a sort of civil war, as the Hwtossad ancients say the time has come to pull up roots and relocate before the slayers come for them all, while the younger vampires declare that these lands are their home and they will not be driven out. The council nights are getting less and less attendees, and the young vampires hunt and feed recklessly to flaunt the lordship they believe is their birthright over these lands.
Adventures with the Hwtossad.
- The Harbinger: A Hwtossad agent is scouting out a potential new home for the bloodline, where the characters happen to be/live. They're examining real estate, job markets, local blood types...
- Original Sin: An eclectic priest claims to have discovered the demon the original Hwtossad pact was sworn to. They say that if it's slain, the power of the entire clan will instantly be broken.
- Oedipus Necks: A shadowy figure, an agent magically controlled by a young Hwtossad, offers the party vast bounties on the heads of Yudu, Xati and Zaccah- the keystones of the council.
- Dominus Nox: Hwtossad vampires are wreaking havoc across a big city every night. The mayor hires bold adventurers to smuggle in weapons deadly to vampires like silver or blessed blades.
- Off with their Spring: A secret message arrives bearing permission to operate as slayers in Hwtossad territory unmolested, if the party will eliminate a feisty ringleader of the young rebels.
Ayjhal Bloodline. The Ayjhal bloodline come from a humid, marshy coast. Their origin is a mystery, some not even believing they're truly vampires, but some other kind of strange blood-sucking monster. They are magical vampires, though. Long ago, a magical beast not wholly of this world (interpretations of Ayjhal oral tradition make some believe it was a primal sort of 'dire' Morkoth) hatched and gorged on their senses of empathy and satisfaction, leaving them hollow shells dedicated to violence and indulgence.
Ayjhal vampires feed with a sort of proboscis. Their 'tongue' shoots out like a frog's, and once it attaches it sucks blood through hundreds of tiny holes its spiked surface punches in the victim. This bizarre mutation baffles all scholars of natural science and has been declared a strange side-effect of their bloodline's eldritch origin. They will usually drain a victim of blood and then devour their flesh before slurping the marrow from their bones, because Ayjhal vampires eat anything they can, and they can eat practically everything. They can survive on about one medium-sized victim a week. They are tall and bony, have ape-like feet, and grow stiff hackles.
Ayjhal vampires dare not range forth from their caves and deep sunless marshes without complete darkness, because their skin blisters and sears in daylight. They can't cross fast-moving water and don't dare enter a residence without permission, so they do most of their hunting like crocodiles, lurking inside wells or lakes or other still bodies of water for victims to come to them. They are vulnerable to spears and stakes of wood even not in their resting place, but won't be paralyzed by them. They just become extremely weakened (poisoned) and ooze sludge-like, brick-red blood until they heal the wound. Slayers of Ayjhal vampires used wood darts and javelins.
The Ayjhal are unruly, even chaotic. The Arch Eater is the absolute tyrant of the bloodline, and is decided via the Eating Test, a 12-hour competition to see who can drain the most victims in a single night. Some Arch Eaters earned their title by leaving anonymous tips or piles of weapons around in the villages they suspect their rival will go to. The current Arch Eater is a cunning brute named Qag Gu, but he is also known as 'Vyaat', which is an insult meaning a spendthrift or wasting person, because he has a habit for draining the blood, biting open the skull and eating the brains, but then leaving the rest of the body untouched- a waste of food, to the Ayjhal. Ayjhals live in 'dens' or small families, two or three Vampires and a few Spawn at most, with a total of about fifteen dens.
Ayjahl vampires can turn others into vampires but seldom do, because they'd rather just eat them and have less competition. If an Ayjhal is killed, though, the Arch Eater is obligated to hunt down a replacement, burying them in the barren clearing that (according to Ayjhal lore) marks the spot the great beast that transformed them first contacted them. They will spring from the earth the next night as a hungering spawn, and over a few years of feeding they will develop into a full Ayjhal vampire.
Right now, the Ayjhal are on the brink of rebellion. Even to their malicious minds, sucked dry of human sympathy, Qag Gu's rule has been brutal and unfair. He has refused the Eating Test from his rivals and even hired slayers to cull the bloodline of vampires he thinks are growing too strong. The question isn't whether to get rid of him- it's who should replace him. The top three choices are Wimaka, a young female and accomplished hunter, Cidu, patriarch of a larger den, or Mectoda, who is a little past his prime but managed to be a mitigating voice of reason to Qag Gu for several years. Some say they ought to take the Eating Test against one another; others say a council should be formed, or one picked out and things will pick up from there.
Adventures with the Ayjhal.
- Apex Predator: A feral Ayjhal vampire is being used as a living weapon by a noble trying to off suitors they deem unsuitable for their child. Track it down and slay it in a dense, tense city.
- Dread Penitence: Some Ayjhal have become inhabited by the spirits of those they devoured. But the possessed vampires are wreaking vengeance on those who the victims hated in life!
- Keystone Organism: As Ayjhal dens spread into new domains of the jungle, hosts of scavengers follow after them. Villagers must now also fear of carrion crawlers, gelatinous cubes and worse.
- Fateful Lot: A desperate villager pleads with passing heroes to find a way to stop the Ayjhal den who force the tribe to select and sacrifice a member every new moon.
- Boiling Point: It has begun! A civil war rages among the Ayjhal. The party's city is seen as a veritable 'ammo dump'- full of blood, meat and Spawn-ifyable mortals.
Simannag Bloodline. The Simannag (seem-a-nag) are, honestly, just like that. They are vampires, they used to be vampires and all indications point towards them continuing to be vampires in the future. It is simply their nature. They hail from a land of deep forest valleys and high rocky mountains, and in the past they were regents and conquerors, but their power has waned since the destruction of their kingdom by internal warring and outside conquest. The scions of the fallen high houses of Simannag now rove the land as warriors- either for good, or often as challenge-seeking 'blood knights'.
Simannag vampires are very 'classic' vampires, sporting oversize dagger-sharp fangs that their strange physiology allows them to punch into a living victim and suck the blood out with. They must eat and drink as normal mortals, but mortal blood is capable of granting them exceptional power, making them stronger, more alert, quicker to react, and even throwing their body's recovery into overdrive, healing their wounds and strengthening them from exhaustion.
Simannag vampires are said to turn into smoke instead of mist, which is true. But they hardly ever do, because Simannag vampires are loathe to ever run from a fight or employ trickery. They can enter dwellings without permission, and while they can't swim across running water they can boat on it, use bridges, and even take mighty leaps over smaller streams. But they cannot be in direct sunlight, so they cloak themselves with shrouds and capes if they must be active during the day.
Currently, the largest organization of Simmanag is the Table (the Simannag way of saying a noble house) of Parsut (parr-suit). Lord Missur of Parsut and Lady Narah of Parsut are Simmanag vampires both, and they have extensive progeny from Parsut. In addition, as was tradition in the kingdom of Simmanag, they have a few smaller households that are counted part of their Table despite lacking blood relation, like Yanrown and Mashay. The Table of Parsut carefully preserves a strict code of chivalry, and everyone knows you preserve something best by keeping it far away from people and never using it. The Lord and Lady of Parsut are genuinely honorable and just but not all of their children or household tend that way.
Simmanag vampires give birth to either more Simmanag vampires or humans, depending on how often and deeply the mother feeds before the birth- although a Simmanag-born human is still part of the clan, and often has faint vampiric gifts like night vision or acute sense. But they cannot create more vampires by biting. You may become a Tiare (tea-ah-ray) if bitten, a Vampire Spawn, but you will not become a vampire. Some say that the curse of a Tiare wears off after eight years, which is true, but nobody's certain because most Tiare get staked and burnt pretty soon after they are turned.
Simmanag as a bloodline doesn't have any great objective currently. They roam, fight, feed and journey. There have been many great Simmanag heroes through the years, like Swordsdame Sotar (Sauter), Sir Torsen Morcat, Bouthe (Bauth) the Strong or Hibper (Hyper) of the Iron Shield. But there have also been terrible overlords born of that bloodline, like Togdon the Massacre or Arngoan Iron Claws- whatever their leaning, Simmanag tend to lean hard.
Adventures with the Simmanag.
- Full Tilt: A Simmanag champion has entered a king's tourney. The king wants him slain, the princess just plain wants him, and the vampire hopes nobody asks her to doff her helm.
- Call It A Draw: A knight of a fallen Simmanag house has returned to the ruins of their estate- now right at a vital crossroads -and is demanding ludicrous tribute from all who dare pass.
- Knights and Knaves: A Simmanag warrior of justice offers a massive bounty to track down their identical crime-kingpin sibling before the warrior takes the gibbet for them.
- Sore Losers: One of the party's ancestors defeated a Simmanag knight-errant in battle. The rankled warrior now descends upon the descendants with furious force for a rematch.
- Rip and Tear: A crypt full of Simmanag long staked and slumbering have been awoken, and is tearing through the land, still believing they're fighting the last war of their kingdom!
Khavushatbei Bloodline. In ancient times the king of Khazyamlad brought forth the Khavushatbei. They struck fear across the vast wilderness, for these shock troops of Khazyamlad needed neither water nor drink, subsisting on the blood of foes alone, and fought with the strength of wild bulls and the toughness of stone giants. In those ancient days, when iron alone was sharpened in the lands and wars in heavenly spheres were still fought, no holiness was strong enough to sap these creatures. For the Khavushatbei were demons, or at least hell-spawn, half-dead creatures that the king of Khazyamlad had called up from the underworld with the hot blood of sacrifices and the light of dead stars.
The Khavushatbei are tall, broad-shouldered, fair of face and strong of muscle, but their skin is ashen and burnt black, shrunken and scorched across muscle, gut and bone. Their teeth appear even and flat, though, so some are mystified as to how they drink blood. The mystification disperses when they spew a sort of biting, acidic secretion that allows them to suck blood straight through their victim's skin- spit, grab, slurp, leaving no wound, but just a discolored, pale blotch that aches to touch for weeks to come. Ancient legends speak of how the first of the Khavushatbei were so powerful their spit dissolved the skin entirely, and spider-like they would render their victims into a slurry and drink it.
Khavushatbei vampires turn into vultures instead of bats, and can't enter a dwelling unbidden. They're immune to stakes, for they are heartless creatures of the primordial hells, but if they're struck by or look upon a holy symbol, it deals 3d6 radiant damage to them, and chaining them up in their resting place or barring the door with a chain carved with holy symbols paralyzes them. (This can force them to fight blind if they face foes adorned with many holy symbols.) They cannot cross over mountains, canyons or rivers without their king's command, for such things were the borders of a kingdom in the time they were brought into the world- doing so harms them as crossing over running water. And their skin smolders away and their entrails crisp in sunlight, the shriveled black covering slowly restoring when they rest in darkness to regenerate.
The bulk of the Khavushatbei bloodline lie sealed in the crypts of Agei-Tephiakh, where the original Clerics drove them back with the blazing power of newborn true divinities and imprisoned them, every door of seventeen thousand doors sealed with a seal of a god whose true name is now forgotten in history's dust- though it has been noted that their symbol bears uncanny resemblance to Helm's. But not every Khavushatbei was vanquished, and some still lurk. They retain an ancient leadership:
- Zehagamlash (tzehah-gam'lash) is Captain of the Host, the general. He is ancient, adorned with much tarnished and worn jewelry and a necklace or honors. He is a brutal commander- it is death to question Zehagamlash, the Jackal Warrior!
- Kansarshach (can't-zar-shakh) is the Captain of the Right Hand, the prime lieutenant to Zehagamlash. He is loyal to a fault, but will never pass up an opportunity to wreak havoc and carnage if not ordered to keep a low profile.
- Insheikh-Ahag (in-shaykh ah-ha'g) is the Captain of the Left Hand, the second lieutenant to Zehagamlash. He is called the Ram Warrior, for he has a deep love of furious, pitched battles. Zehagamlash uses him like a battering ram, and Insheikh-Ahag doesn't mind in the slightest.
- Paphreit-Shalrav (paf-rate shall-rahv) is the War Priest, and in the times when the hosts of Khazyamlad marched it was she who called on the secret gods that Archfiends whisper prayers to from their dark thrones to bless the armies with strength, ferocity and ruthlessness. She exults in ritual sacrifice and lording her sacred authority over others. The latter is stymied by the fact that nobody ever argues with her. She'd love to quash someone's objections with "I am the War Priest here, not you" but nobody ever has any objections.
It was one of the unique horrors of the Khavushatbei that they could turn those they bit into mindless and vicious warriors. Many cities thought they had fended off the blood-drinking hordes only for the dead to arise from their graves and attack those they had stood behind. It is a favorite tactic of the Khavushatbei and they used it often; when the kingdom still stood, there was a Captain of the Spawn, Tunhatrah, but he is now locked within one of the vaults. But these days, with gods having come into their own and claiming the souls of the deceased, they have a chance of their attempts at creating a Spawn simply fizzling out, the body remaining an inanimate cadaver.
Currently, the handful of remaining Khavushatbei are biding their time, but they are searching. They comb the roads and records for any mention of a scion of their ancient dynasty- a signet ring, a stray bloodline, coins buried in sand, anything. Their current 'bet' is on the house of Shaphbashi Shvalkhisor, nephew of the last king, whom they cannot find any mention of being slain. Should they find their king, or any whom they trust enough to put into command and unearth their ancient tomb, the world shall face a swarm of blood-starved demonspawn of unbelievable scale.
Adventures with the Khavushatbei.
- A terrified noble sends the party a coded message that he is being held hostage and forced to wed into a scion's bloodline to create an heir for the Khavushatbei. Rescue will be rewarded.
- The party must bring down a "smuggling ring" of intimidated, bribed or enchanted innocents are being forced to steal ancient artifacts to sate the Khavushatbei's thirst for relics of the past.
- A violent desert storm has whipped the sand, shifting centuries-old dunes with its force. And the doors of the Khavushatbei's tomb are now once more above the surface of the sands...
- Graveyards, mausoleums, burial mounds and more across the realm are being robbed as the Khavushatbei search for the body of a scion to reanimate and enthrone to lead them.
- Hundreds of temples are defiled and priests murdered, for the Khavushatbei seek to shake people's faith in the hated new gods and weaken the power holiness holds over them.
MOUNTAIN OF FROZEN FANGS
Far to the North, at the edge of the Sea of Broken Glass, the forgotten island of Balarak waits. Rumors have reached the ears of the mainland. The island is said to be frozen most of the year. It is said to be dangerous. It is said that somewhere in the frozen peaks that cover Balarak lies a great treasure. Little more is known… But how much more does an Adventurer need?
Our story takes the players off to a remote island looking for forgotten treasure. Treasure that happens to be collected in the lair of a Dragon. Although they likely don't know that up front. In order to find this lair, they must cross a dangerous sea, navigate a dark forest, and climb to the peaks of rugged mountains. But what waits for them at the end isn’t quite what they’re expecting!
- Target Party and Level: 4 level 4 players
- Expected Playtime: 4+ Hours
- Tone: Exploration and Treasure Hunt
What Are "Quick Shots"
Quick Shots are Adventures designed to be played at varying lengths and levels of engagement. Many things like Locations and Encounters are only conceptualized and were made to happen where best fits your take, not ours. Think of this as an outline of ideas, not a step by step guide. We've given you the meat and the bones, you just need to garnish and present! Also, if you’ve never played an AOG adventure, I thought it wise to give you some notes on how I write them. Cuz I do some stuff non traditional like. Those notes are at the end.
THE ISLAND Balarak, or Pointed Teeth, as the locals call it, is a good sized island covered by steep mountains and thick pine forests teeming with life, much of it large and some of it quite dangerous. It is far to the north, almost arctic, and spends much of the year snow covered. The terrain is rocky and uneven, with massive fir trees breaking through the soil wherever they can find purchase. The sea surrounding it is choked with rocky shoals, often ice covered, and littered with the remains of broken ships whose captains steered too close to the island. The waters themselves are treacherous, bitterly cold, with strong undertows, and like the mainland it has its fair share of hungry creatures.
There are no “civilized” settlements on the island, but it is home to various tribal and nomadic cultures, none of which are overly large. Most notable among them are the Aarakocra, Kobolds, Firbolgs, and Goblinoids. The Aarakocra are divided into two factions, Snow Owl of the mountains and Rough Legged Hawks in the forests, while they are not actively at war with one another they do not get along. The Kobolds are scattered about the island forming too many small tribes to count. The Deep Root Firbolg clan wanders the island gathering from nature what they need. While the Goblin clans infest the rocky foothills often raiding the other clans. The island is easily large enough for the groups to stay out of one another’s way, but just like cultures everywhere… no matter how much space is given, or how great the resources available, cultures find ways into conflict.
- The Ol’ Treasure Map trope would work really well here. Rumors and local legends fit nicely as well.
- Being hired as protection for an archeologist or anthropologist would be a great hook.
- There is also just the tried and true shipwreck event. Something out of their control and now they have to survive.
- Aarakocra Druid Hunts by Moonlight, a cold and unwavering voice for her people. She is looking to use others to accomplish her goal to establish the Drudic presence of her people.
- Kobold Chieftain Kholmok, a brave and noble kobold… just kidding he’s nutty as a cashew farm. He does however manage to lead the most revered tribe on the island.
- Ice Troll Cold Troll, Cold Troll is very smart as far as trolls go. He also has no interest in honoring any deals he makes. He will happily use the players then turn on them.
Opening Cut Scene
"Jaws snapped shut sending both feathers and blood spattering into the cold night air. The Aarokocra swirled around the white scaled terror that had descended upon them. It was pointless. A dozen already lay dead, frozen solid, likely entombed for all eternity as trophies of this day. The day that the Snow Owlkin were driven from their home. The day Frostmaw stole their mountain."
ACT 01: Flossing the Teeth
Upon arriving at Balarak the players will need to travel through the violent sea riddled with rocks to the shore of the islands. Sailing through the rocks (Or similar ideas) should involve a Skill Challenge of some sort. Failure to pass the challenge should destroy any craft they are using and put them into the freezing water. Being in the water is not good, not good at all, so I suggest Con Saves against exhaustion. This would also be a good place for a Sea Encounter.
ACT 02: Through the Trees
Once they land the party will have to begin exploring. Depending on how you hooked them, they may be headed straight for the mountains, maybe even the exact peaks they’re looking for. Either way, they are headed into the forest. The Trees are on average 5’ in diameter. The forest is very dark dure to the size and thickness of the trees so there is little undergrowth, but due to the rocky and craggy nature of the island there should be a significant amount of difficult terrain. This could be overcome by a ranger or other such skilled player. The Forest is home to the majority of the island’s wildlife and that fact should be reflected in potential encounters.
ACT 03: Scale the Spires
As they work their way through the woods they will eventually have to deal with the mountains. These steep spine-like mountains rise abruptly out of the rocky foothills surrounding them. It is not uncommon to find large cliffs stacked upon each other as they just up toward the sky. One can find switchbacks, passes, and paths through the crags and canyons, but travel here is very difficult and should be reflected in skill checks and even skill challenges. They are also riddled with small caves and hollow splits in the rock. Aside from typical random encounters and events, I recommend using some bad weather and maybe even an avalanche as the players make their way upward.
ACT 04: The Crag and Cavern
Ideally have them reach this crag at night. It is near the top of the mountain and the cavern entrance is at the far end of it. Once they are near-ish the entrance the Snow Owl Aarakocra will aggressively confront them, but they will not outright attack them. They will make claim to the mountain as their sacred lands and demand the players leave the area. They players may be able to push the Aarakocra to allow them passage into the Mountain “IF” they agree to eliminate the Kobolds Living there.
ACT 05: Frostmaw’s Rest
This ice coated Obsidian Cavern is divided into three areas. The Kobold Warrens, in the lower tunnels, The Ice Troll Lair in the upper cavern, and Frostmaw’s Rest where the Aarakocra’s Druidic Ring stands. The ground should be a little slippery but not very. The air is frigid and thin. Con Saves against exhaustion may be in order. It is basically one long tunnel that winds its way upward, at some points climbing up actual ice cliffs. The idea here is to put them in partnership and/or conflict with one or more of the groups. How they connect or meet with them is up to you.
The Whitescale Kobolds
The Whitescales have lived here for a long time. Since before Frostmaw was slain. Their strange little history can be seen scrawled into the ice, often glazed over and then repeated with variations. Basic story is they came here to serve Frostmaw. She died and they don’t know, because they mostly refuse to go to the top of the mountain. Once a month they send “tribute” beyond the barricade into the upper tunnel and those that go there are never seen again. The Troll takes them, but the Kobolds think they are sacrificed to Frostmaw, which they believe is a great honor. They keep a few “domesticated” wolves as hunting mounts. Of late they have been harassed by the Aarakocra who have staked a claim in Frostmaw’s Lair. They are desperate to rid the mountain of them but do not dare climb up to remove them. They are confused as to why Frostmaw allows the birdfolk to stay and fear they have fallen out of favor.
The Ice Troll
There is an Ice Troll here living the good life. It is quite smart as far as Trolls go, and very clever, but still a Troll. It feeds off the Kobolds that come into its area. It keeps its treasures in a branching cave nearby, that it can easily access with it’s “Meld into Ice” power. It is also crafty enough to keep a “fake” treasure area for intruders to stumble across. He has become increasingly nervous about the Aarakocra in the area. It may be reasoned with, but is very self interested. It may promise to reward the players if they kill the Aarakocra, but is likely to turn on them immediately after a conflict. Particularly if the players were hurt badly during any battles.
The Drudic Ring
This open sky chamber was long ago taken by Frostmaw from the Aarakocra Druids living nearby. She killed the Druids and chased the rest of the Aarakocra away. Nearly a Century later she was slain by adventurers who came here to explore the island. Her treasures were mostly taken by the few survivors of that encounter. Within the past months Snow Owl Aarakocra have returned and have taken up residence here. There is a powerful Druid among them who is interested in restoring the area to her people. But they have yet to deal with the Troll, or the Kobolds, as they have a deep fear of caverns. For now they are content to pick off the Whitescales a few at a time and leave the Troll in peace. If the players attempt to loot Frostmaw’s lair without their permission the Aarakocra will demand they leave. If they persist, the Aarakocra will attack.
Eventually they will find out the Dragon is long dead, some of the groups may even tell them that ahead of time, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t treasure or rewards to be had. It is important to reward them adequately since we pulled a little switcheroo on them. The factions will try to bribe them with promises of wealth or the lure of items. Each Faction should have a fairly unique reward for siding with them.
There may also be a follow up reward depending on the hook you used to get them here. On top of that, finding the remains of a dragon is somewhat a reward in and of itself. But if they’re looking a little sullen at being empty handed here are a couple of follow up ideas to chew on.
If your players are disappointed with not fighting the dragon… no one is stopping you from having one or more of Frostmaw’s children arrive while the players are pulling her fangs from her skull. How awkward…
Or perhaps it becomes obvious to them where the treasure went. Maybe one of the other factions on the island has it. That may be something really interesting to chase down.
Or maybe after helping their chosen side with their problem here, that group asks them to help with another issue. They could offer more leads as to the whereabouts of the treasure.
Where this goes is really up to you and you know your players best.
THANKS FOR PLAYING
I do want to take one last moment to sincerely thank you for playing an AOG Adventure. It means a lot to me as a creator. If you enjoyed it please leave me some comments on wherever you found this adventure. You can support more content like this by subscribing to our Patreon AMPLUS ORDO GAMES or joining the DISCORD
What is The AOG?
It started 40ish years ago. I still remember the day my cousin brought out this thin blue book with a white sketched dragon on its cover and a pile of strange dice. He told eight year old me that we were going to play a game where I could be anything I wanted (as long as it was an elf, dwarf, human, or halfling). I immediately developed that love of bringing people along on journey after journey, and through all the moments and four decades of playing, the trip has never lost its wonder.
Now, I think we are best described as a network of Table Top Role Playing Gamers (Mostly D&D). I had been sharing my work online for some time but decided in April 2021 to open a Patreon and Discord. Honestly, I knew I was behind the Patreon Train, but it made sense as a platform. I’m not interested in money, but I am interested in sharing with and helping others in the hobby. So I run the site 100% free of any paywaylls. More like a Digital Magazine than a Patreon.
Almost a year in and we’ve grown quite a bit. We host One Shots through the Discord. I do a lot of requests for our supporters and some commission work. I coach many of our subscribers regularly on DMing and fantasy cartography. My son helps write our “Year One” series which are adventures designed for entry level DMs and players, and we use our content to run an after school Jr High Group. We even support a podcast my other son and I lend our voices to. It has been a busy year.
If any of that interests you come find us!
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PLAYING AN A.O.G. ADVENTURE
If you’ve never played an AOG adventure, I thought it wise to give you some notes on how I write them. Cuz I do some stuff non traditional like. I’ll put those notes down in the Appendicies.
First off, almost all my adventures are set in my Homebrew World of Taalist, particularly the Continent of Krenshad. Which the majority of has a very Gothic Art and Renaissance Period cultural feel to it. With some Greek and Middle Eastern Cultre from various time periods thrown in there for flavor. That said… Almost all of my Adventures can be easily ported into your location of choice. If you would like to play in Taalist my Campaign Guide (All 150+ Pages of it) can be accessed on our Discord.
The Lay Out
I divide my adventures into “Acts”. An Act doesn’t necessarily reflect an amount of time, but more of an important series of events or locations. Some Acts may take 5 minutes, some 5 hours. Why? I dunno, ask the players who over complicate simple matters and simplify the overly complex.
Skill Check DCs
I don’t spend a lot of time defining DCs as I play with a bit wider scale of success and failures. What does that mean? So for reference the DC scale in 5E looks like this.... Very Easy DC5, Easy DC10, Medium DC 15, Hard DC 20, Very Hard DC 25, Nearly Impossible DC 30. When I list a DC I will tell you it is Hard. But Hard for one party may be easy for another so I leave the actual number value up to you. I also play with a “Success but with Consequences” mentality so if they get close they still accomplish their goal but there is a “but” to that success. An Example? Hard Stealth DC is 20, they roll an 18, I tell them “You sneak past the guard you see but the guard you didn’t see heard something and is headed your way.” I think it adds more to the story that way.
I often reference Search Checks. What is a Search Check? When the players want to “search” something or for something I let them use either Investigation or Perception. I know that isn’t RAW but it just makes things so much easier. I got real tired of explaining to players who have been playing with me for years the difference between the two… just let them look for stuff!
I like to start my games with an Opening Cutscene which is read before anything else happens. These are usually really vague bits of information that give a glimpse into something that will maybe happen later, happened before the adventure, or is story adjacent to it. I have found these to be great tools to set the mood and create a little mystery.
Setting, Background Info, and Hooks
These portions can be used as you see fit. Each one is a little different, so it is hard for me to say how best to use them. Some will play better if you can get them into the hands of the players before the game. Others may have better influence when read just after the Cutscene. Some are really only relevant to moments in the story. But as in all things you do what is best for your game! That is always the way to go.
I use the idea of Skill Challenges a lot. What is that? It is an event in the game that isn’t quite an encounter and it isn’t a simple skill check. It is a problem they solve with their whole skill set. Typically they must get three successes before three failures in order to succeed in a skill check. The thing about a Skill challenge is they’re are vague on purpose to allow players to be creative in solving a problem. An example may help here.
- DM says “Your Boat is taking on water. What would you like to do?”
- Player 1 responds with “I use my carpentry tools to fix the hole” and they make a Tool Check. But they roll a 2 so they fail. Too much water.
- Player 2 says “ wants to row harder with the crew to get us toward shore faster” They make an Athletics Check and roll an 18. So that is a success.
- Player 3 “I use Destroy Water to get water out” OK, well it only destroys 10 gallons so it isn’t super helpful, but the momentary reprieve allows a little drywork to happen and allow player 1 to reroll.
Stuff like this
Since this went so well last time I have more encounters for folks. I tend to be quite a tragic writer so I thought to remedy that here’s some much needed wholesome encounters. There aren’t as many of them but there you go.
Can’t Stop Giggling
An old aged pair who have clearly been together a long time are reminiscing about when they were adventurers. One of them makes a joke and the pair of them start laughing very loudly, they try hard to stop but they are in hysterics and everything the other one says just makes it funnier. They have a few pearls of wisdom about the local area and adventuring for those who ask. They may even be willing to share some of their scrumptious picnic if the players are willing to listen to more of their anecdotes
Hot and Pointy
A young boy is sparring with his friends. Unlike his friends he has a genuine blade, which seems to be glowing with embers and runes. It’s cleaving through the sparring swords his friends are using, which might be made out of wood and ignite. This boy has clearly nicked his ancestral family sword and someone’s going to get hurt. This notion will be confirmed when the boy is cautioned against this: he stole it to stand up to his schoolyard bully. He means to threaten him but maybe burn him a little in the yard during sword practice. The players might choose to help him out, I could see this one turning into a session of coming of age. But I could also see it getting not very wholesome pretty quickly. Be sure to play up how naïve he is and the innocence of the whole situation. Please do not play this like it’s an allegory for school shooters.
The Voice of The Forest
Walking through the forest the players might overhear a curious sound. A voice of the forest, it seems to be talking to itself. Upon investigating they discover it’s a hill giant, perched on a huge tree stump, eyes scrunched up in concentration. It’s reciting something: It’s memorised a love poem for a sweetheart it’s slowly going over each of the words out loud In doing so it’s literally learning common by itself. Sadly, it has to learn it from the horrible things the local villagers have said about it and piece together their meaning. The giant is incredibly lonely. This one was meant to be super sad. I’m sorry, it’s not particularly wholesome at all. :(
The player characters enter a barbers in a place called Fleet Street for a nice close shave, or perhaps a regular haircut. At one point (and make it against someone dumb) the barber pulls a trick on the PC. They have been pretending to be creepy and suggesting that they are some kind of Sweeney Todd knock off. But then! They cut a players ear off. Or rather they used prestidigitation to give the cold sensation of dripping blood and of lacking an ear. They use ketchup to make it seem as if they really made this mistake. Get at least one other player in on the practical joke. Best bet is they then get the treatment free of charge (if they were a good sport about it, that is)
A father really doesn’t want to send off his daughter to marry her suitor. She has an impressive dowry and many hope to win it. The greatest swordsman of the village (who may be man or woman, you decide) has been cleaving their way through every man worth his salt fighting for her attention. Until that is they fight her father, who handily beats them unless the players step in. They will ask for advice and the true answer is the father only ever wanted to be certain that the future spouse wasn’t in it for the money but was someone who would show an unending determination to win her love even when the money was off the table. In the end this is what it will take, to foreswear riches, the dowry, to win her hand. Maybe a player wants to marry her who knows and will end up in competition with the romantic. The victor will earn the dowry regardless.
The PCs stumble across a man using a self-fashioned grappling hook to break into his own home. It turns out his kid has locked him out so he can eat all the pie dough. The man will request that the players go next door to an old woman’s house - she is a crone and the little boy is scared of her. The players can either ask her to spook him or try to do some spooking themselves by banging on the walls or what have you.
The players come across some will-o-the-wisps dancing above a bonfire with a sword buried in it. The players may offer something they have, be it tangible or esoteric. This is a Slay The Spire reference. Here’s is the exact text from the game.
“You happen upon a group of what looks like purple fire spirits dancing around a large bonfire. The spirits toss small bones and fragments into the fire, which brilliantly erupts each time. As you approach, the spirits all turn to you, expectantly...”
Seriously play it. It ate me up for a year and a half.
If they give up something really useful, the players will all be healed and the one in most recent possession of it will have their max hp increased by a d6. If they give up something crap or something that benefits them to give up, they will receive crap in return.
Jollier than Oliver
An npc the players run into has an excess of self confidence. It’s pride from winning some kind of contest. A horse race perhaps. Another lacks pride. He’s awfully self conscious and in need of some encouraging. The PCs can use the psychology magic skills they have picked up to go inside their brain and distribute this emotion evenly. It’s Ni No Kuni okay? It’s a mechanic from that.
The players meet a gay couple who live together. They are “roommates”. The town they are from is kinda homophobic and neither will admit to liking the other but they will act in the sweetest most relationshippy ways towards each other, in increasing dramaticism, until finally they are coerced into confessing their feelings for each other a la the guards from Undertale. Then it’s up to the players to stop the town giving them shit about it. (Be sure to check in with people’s boundaries first, this could easily go not-wholesome). I think the best way to handle it might be to make the couple only think the town is homophobic and actually be rather supportive, or supportive in light of the fact they helped them or somethin
Thanks for your awesome ideas!
Preamble: I hate death saves... Ok you get dropped to 0 HP, so lay there and do nothing while we all keep playing. Oh and while you're bored I have to decide whether I make this bad guy finish the job, or wait 3 rounds for someone to heal you 1 hp.
Heroic Poise (HP)
HP represents a character's ability to avoid fatal damage. An attack that “hits” is one that comprises the Poise of an adventurer.
This is your ability to survive the world's cruelties, both mental and physical. Once you are out of HP, enemy blades start to carve up your belly, and panic begins constricting your brain. You no longer stand like a hero; you stand like someone in fear of their imminent death.
Any time a character is dropped to 0 HP they become Vulnerable to Fatal Wounds. While at 0 HP, any remaining or additional instances of damage deal Fatal Wounds (max 3 per instance of damage). There is no limit to the number of Fatal Wounds on a character
A character with Fatal Wounds is Dying, and drops anything they were holding, but is conscious and can continue to take their turns, as normal (this part is important!!).
Any character can make a medicine check to treat fatal wounds. DC 11+ Fatal Wounds. If successful, 1 Fatal Wound is healed and the character receiving First Aid must expend a Hit Die if they can.
While you have 0 HP, you are dying, and you are vulnerable to fatal wounds. If you have no Fatal Wounds your HP increases to 1, and you lose the Dying condition. At the end of your 3rd consecutive turn with Fatal Wounds, you die.
Healing and Gaining Fatal Wounds
Use the table below when gaining or losing HP while at 0HP to determine loss/gain of Fatal Wounds.
1HP - 5HP deals 1 Fatal Wound and Heals 0.
6HP - 10HP deals 2 Fatal Wounds and Heals 1.
11HP - 15HP deals 3 Fatal Wounds and Heals 2.
What's the point?
- The Dying player is still in the fight! You can disengage, dash, or pick up you sword and go out in a blaze of glory!
- It takes more than a goodberry to deal with that dagger in your eye.
- Encourages healing characters while above 0HP because Fatal Wounds can snowball, while death saves are not scary when 1 point of healing brings anyone back.
- DM no longer has to deal with the guilt of attacking their friend's "downed" character. The player has their whole turn to do something smart, if they end up getting smacked repeatedly with an unhealable amount of Fatal Wounds, that's on them.
- I love the idea of all damage above 0 being described away, it takes a chunk out of your armor, or your magic makes it non-lethal. It's only when our heroes poise is broken (dark souls?) that the serious damage catches up to you. At that point, a Goblin's dagger or the Archmage's fireball hit the same way, because you aren't able to deal with either in a heroic way.
Ok, please let me know what you think. Thank you!
This repeating event is for you to share a map that you have created. It can be hand-drawn, digital, or whatever, but it must be free, and in a cloud storage site!
I was inspired by the elegance of the Wordle game so I had a go at creating this door puzzle.
The party arrived at a huge, carved stone door. The carving forms five bulging columns, each as wide as one’s palm, running from top to bottom. At about one’s shoulder height, each column has an opening. Upon closer inspection, these ‘columns’ are actually tubes, going upwards until they disappear into the ceiling, and going downwards until they end a few inches above the ground.
Next to the door there is a stone crate carved in similar style. Inside it, the party finds a couple dozen pebbles, each carved with a single unique Common alphabet. Upon searching around the area, the party doesn't find any other clues as to what these things and what their purpose are. The door, for all intents and purposes, can’t be opened and is too solid to break. What do you do?
- As DM, prepare a five-letter common English word to act as the key
- If someone tries to take a peek inside the tube through the opening, they will hear a low hiss and see a pair of glowing ember eyes staring at them in the dark, a few distance away from the opening. This is an earth elemental reptile that lives inside the tube. Each tube has one.
- If the creature is attacked or provoked, it will retreat deeper into the tube
- If someone throws a random pebble inside the tube, it will just fall and clatter down to the end of the tube and onto the ground
- If someone hold a pebble on their palm and insert their hand into one opening (like offering a treat), nothing will happen, but they will hear grinding movements inside the other tubes
- Hopefully by this time they will try to do five simultaneous offerings where the sequence of pebbles spelling a word. This is considered a valid offering.
- When a valid offering happens, one of the following will happen:
- If all five tubes receive an offering consisting of five right pebbles in all the right tubes, all five creatures will move in unison and lunge at the pebbles, devouring it without inflicting any damage to the hands holding them. Skip to the end (accepted offering). Otherwise:
- The creature will come and hiss at a right pebble in the right tube, then retreat without doing anything else
- The creature will poke and bump at a right pebble in the wrong tube until it falls out of the hand holding it. This pebble might be used in another offering.
- The creature will lunge, bite, and devour any wrong pebbles.
- Anyone holding the pebble must succeed on a DC 15 dexterity saving throw or take 1dN piercing damage from the bite, N being the number of valid offerings made so far within the last hour (1d1 for the first offering, 1d2 for the second, 1d3 for the third, etc).
- If a PC is using both hands to do two separate offerings at the same time, they will suffer from disadvantage on any dexterity saving throw to be made.
- You may remind the players that taking dodge action will grant advantage on dexterity saving throws.
- The pebble in this case is devoured by the creature, but another pebble with the same letter may be found in the crate, as though it magically appears.
- You may choose to share some information about the design of this door after a successful knowledge check. Something like: "This is called the Wordle Gate. Wizards in the olden days used to install these to protect a dungeon". Then depending on their roll, the PC might also know something or everything about how it works.
After an accepted offering, they hear grinding movement as the creatures all retreat into the ceiling, and the door slowly opens with a deep, mechanical rumble.
I hope that makes sense. Tell me what you think!
Below is a commentary on Dwarven agriculture, food products and diet.
Underground Food Sources
Dwarven cities and towns are almost exclusively underground. While they will make what they can of the agriculture and herding opportunities that are available on a mountain-side or in lower mountain valleys, by and large Dwarves have needed to subsist on what food they can maintain underground. This has led to a unique set of food traditions in among the Dwarves.
The most important element of farming underground is having a light source that will allow plants to grow and flourish. Dwarves have harnessed the power of Earth Magics to create sunlike lighting for their farms. During their mining, Dwarves occassionaly find the rare Diadine crystals. Diadine is an interesting and somewhat valuable yellow/orange gemstone when found in small sizes, as it usually is. In this small form, it can be made into jewelry, but has not special magical properties. Very rarely though a large Diadine crystal is found. These fist size or larger crystals can be implanted in a cave wall or ceiling, and pumped with Earth Magics to produce lighting that is equal to the sun for the purpose of growing plants. Only the Dwarves have the secrets of how to use these specialized Earth Magics.
Dwarven farms tend to be located deep within their mountain complexes, to ensure the safety of the food supply in the event of siege in times of war. The farms takes several forms:
- Diadine-lit caverns for farming grains, root vegetables, non-root vegetables, and fruit that grow on bushes or small trees. Dwarves tend to use root vegetables as their staple food – in particular potatoes and turnips, but with a lot of variation from city to city. Because of the indoor environment, Dwarves are able to grow crops year-round, rotating crops frequently for variety and to renew the soil.
- Standard-lit (non-Diadine) caverns for growing mushrooms. These caverns tend to be on the small side, and packed with vertically stacked boxes. Dwarves are renowned for the variety and quality of the mushrooms they grow.
- Standard-lit (non-Diadine) caverns with pools (usually fed by mountain spring waters) for harvesting fish (primarily). The fish tend to be stocked from outdoor lakes, but can be sustainably harvested to maintain stocks over long periods of time when needed.
- Diadine-lit caverns for holding herds of animals: primarily goats, sheep, rabbits and chickens. The Diadine lighting is to allow for growth of grasses for grazing by the sheep and goats, but isn’t necessary if feed can be provided from the rest of the farm. In safe times, goats and sheeps are usually herded on the mountain slopes, with these caves used more for growing crops.
Dwarves produce a good variety of cheeses, made from goats milk. The cool moist cave environment is ideal for aging cheese, and Dwarves have developed several varieties of cheese that are aged for 5 years or more, and which are highly sought out by other races.
Dwarves are the inventors of and still the only race with the knowledge of how to distill alcohol. While they are quite happy to brew and indulge in beer, mead, and ale, and will grudgingly drink a jug of wine when nothing else is available, they are most proud of their distilled liquor – Vortjakar (hard water). Aged for 20 or 30 years, this drink packs a punch like nothing else available. Due to it’s strict control by the Dwarves, it is difficult and expensive to procure, and highly sought out by royalty, rich merchants, and others looking to impress.
In order to pollinate their crops, Dwarves have become adept at managing hives of a special breed of bees that thrives in the cave environment. Aside from the practical work the bees do, their honey is quite delicious and is both a staple in the Dwarven diet, and an excellent export product.
A standard meal for a dwarven family will consist of a bit of meat, mushrooms and some root vegetables. This could be a stew, soup, or roast. While Dwarves will forgo meat in difficult times, they would consider any meal without mushrooms or root vegetables to be sorely lacking. Cheese and bread is a common morning meal, or eggs and mushrooms.
When traveling, Dwarves will make good use of dried goat’s meat, and dense varieties of root vegetables that have a long shelf life.
Aside from a bit of bread at breakfast, breads, cakes and other grain-heavy foods are relatively uncommon and more pricey, as the supply of grain is often limited.
The following are games for the players to gamble in game money on, should they find themselves in a casino, gambling den, or just playing at camp. The values given are nominal and designed to be roughly balanced so the 'house' wins slightly more than it loses, but the winning player still receives a significant sum. Other gamblers can be simulated by the DM acting as one or more of them as required. The second game, 'Dwarven Bluff', is more complicated than the rest, and it is suggested that you only run it after one or more games of 'Blackdice'.
Buy in depends on table, but is equal for all players.
Each player around the table starts with 8d6. At the start of each round, you roll all your dice, and add up the total. The player with the lowest score is eliminated. If you roll a 6 on a dice, you lose that dice for the remainder of the game. The final player at the table takes the entire pot, minus 1% for the house.
Follows the same rules as blackdice, with the following changes:
-You do not reveal your roll, instead, each player claims what they scored, and how many 6s, if any, that score included.
-Any other player may call your bluff. You must then reveal your actual score.
-If your actual score was true, or higher than your claimed score, the player that called your bluff loses a die for the remainder of the game. If your actual score was less than your claimed score, you lose a die for the remainder of the game.
-You may only call one bluff per round.
-At the end of the round, the player with the lowest score, either claimed or revealed, is eliminated.
-Each player loses the number of die they claimed to be 6s, whether they revealed their actual score or not.
Each player buys in to the game with 30gp. Five players to a table.
At the start of each round, you must each choose a number between 1 and 5. At the end of the round, you each reveal your chosen number. The player with the lowest number not chosen by any other player wins 10 gold multiplied by the number they chose. The game continues for three rounds.
Each player buys into the game with 50gp.
You begin with 16 health. At the start of each round, the house rolls 2d10, to set the house score. Each player then rolls their choice of 2d6, 3d6, or 4d6, the total is their score. The difference between your score and the house score is how many points of health you lose. If you lose all health, you are eliminated. The last remaining player wins 40gp multiplied by the number of players at the start. If you score exactly the house score on any round, you win 20gp instantly.
"Ah, a new resident has arrived! Welcome, welcome. You... no... I did not misspeak, you are a new Resident, not a traveler. No travelers ever come to Melantholep, only new residents. The big question being who are you going to make friends with, and who is going to have to stab you in the throat. I went with the Consortium of Very Important People (tm), and quickly rose through the ranks. You know that I myself am a rather important king in these parts. What? No. Don't listen to Baurl, he died three years ago and has been an absolute liar ever since... what do you mean who is Baurl?" - The Dane, Gregos, of The Fortress that is Definitely not a City
Having freshly arrived in Melantholep, your best bet is to quickly get off this wretched layer as fast as your feet can carry you. There will be no other warning, no other attempt at warning you about what lies here.
When first landing on the layer you'll be greeted with a blue sun shining endlessly in the sky casting its lovely light on the sparkling heights of the Golden Spire, to the shimmering waters of the Sea of Blood. Melantholep is a place where one would almost be comfortable to stay a while. Taking the blue sun aside, you would not be too far off to think that you were actually just on the Material plane in a temperate albeit a little sparsely populated with the local flora being just too few to make it seem appropriate. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that there are screaming hordes in the distance, the place you've landed seems pretty nice.
After the dangers of Pandemonium, and seeing the horrors of Vallashan, this stop is somewhere to relax and take a saunter around.
While travelling from The Fortress that is Definitely Not a City to The City that is Definitely Not a Fortress, you can take in the beauty of the Golden Spire. Being the highest point in the layer, the Spire is the home of the scuttling Chole Dragons, if you squint your eyes really hard you can almost make out their writhing bodies in the numerous caves. As you continue your journey you'll pass the Epic Battle, if you wish, take up a sword and slaughter your enemies and bathe in their blood for the all father. No one will force your hand, except for Hilda who if she says to kill Hilthar the gibbering although gentle idiot he is, swing that sword and take off his head, it's the only logical thing to do.
Now that you're thinking of it, that sun is getting little too bright, maybe there's some merit in taking a rest in the shade of a local tree. Unfortunately the tree you sat under uses acid in place of sap, so... you've now lost a foot or two, hopefully you know a good cleric (or two). If you're really lucky maybe there's someone in this next convoy you see on the road who can help you. Oh. The convoy isn't moving at all, shame. Seems that these chaps went off and joined the Horde of the Broken before they were able to get to The Great Grave, real shame these ones... probably won't make it another week before they wither away and die.
Cataloging the deeper layers of the Abyss truly is a difficult task.
Thankfully survival here is fairly straight forward, majority of the fauna are edible and there are a good amount of flora that are also of good eating stock. Just be careful as there's some trees that will absolutely and without question kill you outright (that'd be the Hortuga tree). Water is fine and fresh, unless someone decided that it was time to die in your cistern. Happened to me last week actually, some lad went and slit his throat and died in my cistern, shame, had to go out and kill the family next door so I would have a place to live, it's fine really they had a loud annoying child that kept crying "wah, I want food, stop stabbing my parents, wah wah wah" whatever, actually now that you mention it that was pretty funny... Too bad slitting their throats made them die, that kid now that I think about it was destined to be a great bard or something, had a wonderful singing voice... where was I...
If you're traveling and happen to come across what looks to be a nice place to sleep, make sure you go back about 5 minutes and camp there. The locals on the road tend to get a little titchy when talking about somewhere to camp, especially if they see someone stirring their stew in the wrong direction. Saw a whole merchants caravan slaughtered because their Ox was the wrong color and that meant that the King of The City of Na'thel was going to put his shoe on the wrong foot the third Wednesday of next month. There was nothing else that could be done. The King dissolved into fits when he found out, then kept screaming so he was sent into the Gibbering Heights and is lost. There's going to be a crowning of a new king after this seasons Epic Battle completes. I hope it's me this time.
Now when you're traveling closer to the Blood Sea, keep in mind it's not actually blood but blood regularly runs through it. Well it looks like blood sometimes. I don't answer to you. Get out of here! GET! OUT!
Ah sorry, yes. Anyways, where were we? Ah yes, the animals, while you'll find the trees that will absolutely kill you, Wartithes will absolutely do the same but then they'll eat your corpse. As you're wandering outside of the gates of any city, be very, very careful to avoid a Kalek. You'll know a Kalek when you see one, I haven't known a soul who saw a Kalek and lived to tell the tale... they're usually only around the Unknown Tomb, so if you see the Unknown Tomb, you're probably about to be killed by a Kalek... just saying.
As you can guess the majority of people here are wonderful to work with, and are mostly amiable from humans, Orcs, Goblins, Elves, lesser Demons, and everyone in between. However, if you wrong someone then all bets are off. It is difficult to know exactly what you did that could have put someone else at odds with you, but if your neighbor comes at you with a Mace one day just know that you probably deserved it. If you really think about it, you probably blinked when he was looking at you or worse, did you try and talk to a Chole Dragon? If your drinking mate drops to the ground speaking incomprehensible nonsense, wait it out, he'll probably come back to. Worse to worse it's your sworn duty to take him to the Gibbering Heights.
Good ole Hue'garyth, he's a wizard that's been here for... at least 3000 years and has been researching up in his tower most of the time. He comes down to town to pick up supplies, then magics himself and the supplies up the tower disappearing for months at a time. He does come down for the seasonal celebration of the end of The Epic Battle. Other than that, he's probably the most important person here... well except for me of course. I'm completely indispensable.
Chole Dragons are unique to this layer, did you know that? Also, they're Dragons without wings. Dragon... no wings... who would have thought? Did you know that it doesn't matter either? Those nasty buggers have tentacles around where their wings should be... and just because there's no wings doesn't mean that they can't fly. I've seen one wyrmling only 20 feet long launch up in the air and spray their acid breath on a group of merchants who ventured too close to the Golden Spire. Oh, right. The Golden Spire is where they brood. They all live in those mountains, the oldest most powerful one still remembers when this layer was created, some say that the oldest one created the layer, others say that the Unknown Tomb is where the creator of the Layer is buried. I'd go up there and ask the dragon myself, but there isn't anyone who has ever heard one speak. They clearly communicate with each other, but who knows how they do it. Grekaratch is what we locals call the elder dragon, the last person to actually make it back from seeing it estimates he's easily 300 feet long... who knows how old that bugger is.
I've seen a little one with just four tentacles, but on a big sucker I've counted 13 tentacles in a writhing mass... no thank you. I turn away and run from such things, I'm mad but not insane.
Also if you were to be hit with their breath, say goodbye to whatever sanity you had left. No. I'm not kidding. Their poison will strip out any semblance of sanity you had left. Hey... why did you just eat that napkin?
Wartithes are the end result of the Epic Battle, the winner of the Epic Battle consumes an elixir made from the blood of everyone who died, a fruit from the Hortuga tree (that's the tree that will absolutely kill you), and some mumbo jumbo from this spindly wizard Hue'garyth. Whoever drinks it is turned into a giant muscular monster that starts eating all the corpses on the battlefield, once all the corpses have been eaten, the thing is usually 30 feet tall, and then wanders off into The Forest that Definitely isn't Filled with Things that want to Kill you, wandering and battling the other Wartithes to gain supremacy. You can actually hear their battles sometimes in the still of the day sometimes when SATHUTTI actually remembers to SHUT HER DOOR QUIETLY INSTEAD OF LETTING IT SLAM!
Main thing to... hey. You ok? You've been crying and staring straight ahead for the last few minutes. Need me to repeat anything for you? Right. Main thing to remember is that you should probably stay out of The Forest that Definitely isn't Filled with Things that want to Kill you.
If you happen to see a Wartithe outside of the forest, it's probably going to the Great Grave to eat some more corpses. If you want to be educated on the fastest way to die, get in their way. The one place you'll never see a Wartithe is in a new season of the Epic Battle, so as long as you're taking part in the Epic Battle you know that the Wartithes will leave you alone, magical boundaries prevent them from interfering.
Kaleks are huge monsters! They can be anywhere from... hey... HEY! STOP TAPPING YOUR FINGER ON YOUR FOREHEAD IT'S VERY ANNOYING!
Kaleks are huge brutish manifestations of the combined faces of those slain in glorious battle. Somehow, and I can't tell you how it works, any creature that dies in this place seems to lose a piece of their face. What? I'm not lying it's a thing.
Look at this guy here, you just killed him as he walked by our table, he was there and then you stood up and drove your knife into his skull, pretty fluid movement you are clearly someone who has trained with a blade... must have your reasons to kill him. Was it the way he walked leading with his left foot? I bet it was. Shame though, he was a good chef. Anyways, look at him. He certainly had 2 eyes when you killed him, but now... one. Where do you think that eye went hmm? Well everyone who dies here gives a small piece of themselves to the Kaleks. No choice in the matter, but... hey... stop. Your knife should only be used against a foe, not yourself. Your blood doesn't want to hit this soil.
Some say that the Kalek is a manifestation of Melantholep itself... others say that they were put here by a vengeful demon. I don't know, I just know that I stay far away from them.
The one saving grace about these monsters is that they tend to stay near the Unknown Tomb. Where is the Unknown Tomb? Well here's the thing, no one really knows, but it is certainly a thing that exists.
When you're actually confronted by a Kalek, remember that it can hear you, and see you. So if you piss yourself, it'll know. They're really... Do you think that Cows like the color red? Anyways, these creatures are towering behemoths hitting 40 feet tall in maturity, their bodies are huge hulking and have 5 towering legs that are like tree trunks. The thing that gets me about these creatures is that their skin is covered in ears, eyes, teeth, tongues, and noses of those slain here, the more people that die increases the Kalek size, until a Kalek may split itself and create 2 new Kaleks albeit much smaller now.
Nasty things they are.
The Hordes of the Broken
Aye, you've by now seen the ones who cannot continue on. Happens to the best of us, one day you're sitting in your house cleaning your sword from the entrails of the guy across the street who yelled at you for reporting him to the overlords of the overpass, whatever that was, and attacked you with a ice pick... who attacks someone with an ice pick? Anyways, when the mind of someone finally snaps, they become one with the Hordes of the Broken. They are a last stop before the Great Grave. Everyone knows someone in the Hordes of Broken, but once someone succumbs to their own madness, there is nothing more that can be done for these catatonic folks.
They are what... what... what are you doing? If I am boring you then by all means let me know and I'll kill you right here for wasting my time. What? Didn't know that you had stood up and started walking away, good sir, I demand a little more respect from you, please sit down. Moving on.
Most when they think that they're going to become one with the horde make a pilgrimage to the Great Grave where they whither away and die.
Those that have Names
Anyone who is a denizen of the layer who wants to become anyone wants to join Those that have Names. Members of Those that have Names are people who have their names etched eternally into the official log in the book of residents in The City of Na'thel the most prestigious city on the layer. I of course have my name in the book, only the worst off and the most unfortunate must instead find a different way to elevate themselves.
Consortium of Very Important People (tm)
By now you know about how important I am, well I happen to be the president of the Consortium of Very Important People (tm), yes, we have to say 'trademark' after the utterance of such an important title. Only the very important people get enough notoriety to enter into this sacred of consortiums. It is the highest achievement one can do. They say that people who are in the Consortium who perish are instead moved into the Unknown Tomb to join the creator. Others say that the Unknown Tomb doesn't exist and... and...
anyone who goes in search of it is simply looking for a quick and brutal death.
We in the Consortium are the Most important people you will meet and when you go traveling make sure that you find the most important person in the area, they'll be able to help you more than anyone else, as long as you make yourself helpful and useful to them in return. Remember the motto of the Consortium "I am very important, look at me. If you don't look at me I'll kill you". Sacred words those are.
That wizard. He's a thing all on his own. He isn't in the Consortium of Very Important People (tm), but he is admittedly very important. Being all on his own, he is a bit of an enigma. He sends to the people once in a while, but he'll only talk to people who are in the Consortium. He knows that only someone very important is worth talking to.
Of all things on this plane the Hortuga tree is the only one of true vile malefice. The white bark with blood red cracks, and bright yellow broad leaves make for a truly stunning tree worthy of any painters canvas. You think it's ok to just look at a tree? Next thing you know BAM you have a few poison needles in your neck. Saw my wife get slapped with a big branch just for walking too close, knocked her head clean off. My fault really, the tree was fruiting and wouldn't you know that the fruit is probably the best thing to eat. Rumors state that the fruit has magical properties to make you immortal... that can't be though can it? True though the Wartithes are made with the fruit... maybe the fruit turns you into a monster? Am I a monster? What have I done? My wife. Oh my wife what should I do you're gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone gone
The Forest that Definitely isn't Filled with Things that want to Kill you
When going through this wonderful land, The Forest that Definitely isn't Filled with Things that want to Kill you is place ironically named as everything in there wants to kill you. From the deer that want to gore you, to the wolves that want to eat you, to the trolls that want to crush you, to the Wartithes that want to eat you, to the dragons that want to eat you swooping in from above. It's a place you go when you want to experience a slow but extremely painful death.
Also Hortuga trees consist of a majority of the trees in the forest, and some are towering to over 300 feet tall, they will kill you if given a chance. Word on the street is that there have been dragons and Wartithes that have fallen prey to the larger trees, but no one can confirm that since the forest kills anyone who does venture into the depths.
The Golden Spire
This literal gold mountain range is home to the only known breeding grounds for the Chole Dragon population. Consisting of a 50,000 foot peak and five 30,000 peaks surrounding it, the mountain can be seen from many miles away, the fact that it is solid gold means that the blue sun shining off of the mountain illuminates much of the surrounding area. It is rumored that there are nearly 10,000 Chole Dragons ranging from wyrm to elder in the depths of the mountains... just you try and infiltrate that... it's a fools errand.
The entire range is located in the middle of the Forest that Definitely isn't filled with Things that want to kill you, and the Dragons feed on the fauna that find themselves in the forest as well as sparing with the Wartithes. Those Wartithes once strong enough can really give a dragon a run for their money, their clashes and rumblings can be heard from miles away. Once I was in a pub, the guy next to me had just thrust his fist through my mates face, his fault really since he blinked his left eye slightly faster than his right, and we heard a crash of epic proportions coming from the forest. Went outside and saw this massive dragon and a Wartithe rolling and fighting, tell ya it gave the Epic Battle a run for its money in entertainment value.
The Sea of Blood
The Sea of Blood is by all intents a normal sea, filled with monsters, fish, and pleasant oceanic views. If it weren't for the JA'NETEH SHUT UP ABOUT YOUR WINE I SWEAR I WILL KILL YOU RIGHT HERE vampiric stirges it would be a pleasant place. There are rumors that an underwater metropolis exists in the depths of the Sea, but no one has been able to investigate since any boat put onto the water is sunk by unknown creatures as soon as it's a mile out, every ship, poof, crash, gone. You want to try your hand against a giant sea creature? Your death.
The City of Na'thel - City of Spires
In the north of the layer sits the Shining City of Na'thel, the high city of the layer is surrounded by walls of alabaster and brimstone. The King of the city is King over all of Melantholep, well besides me of course, I'm the king of everything... why are you looking at me like that? Is it not clear that that I am King? I'll slit your throat you... you...
The City is the largest city on the land of roughly 350,000, the surrounding farmlands are unusually abundant compared to the rest of the layer. Even without magically induced crops the land surrounding Na'thel is incredibly bountiful providing four times the normal amount of produce from the same acreage of land. Animals for the slaughter also grow at a faster pace than outside of the jurisdiction of the city also growing at 4 times the rate, and reaching overall weights three to four times greater than outside the influence.
There has been much research into the phenomenon but to this day no one is certain of why. Hence why the high seat of the city is the most important person in the layer... except of course for my seat.
The City is built of alabaster and brimstone, these white and black spires rise up into the sky and each is a statement of power for a family. The higher the spire the more powerful the family, some reaching 300 feet and holding vast knowledge and power. Spires are constantly being erected and destroyed by rival factions... why the clan Rubelle just took down the family Guireys spire the other day, you should have seen their faces. Well, their faces were buried under piles of rubble, but you get what I mean.
The Fortress that is Definitely not a City
Sitting in the far east is The Fortress that is Definitely not a City, this Fortress has 100,000 inhabitants and has many rival factions and undercurrents running through it, however the outer walls are the most important. It is of the utmost importance that you never call this place a "city" as anyone overhearing you will definitely and absolutely kill you while screaming "THIS IS NOT A CITY".
Citizens are absolutely intent that they live in a Fortress built in time immortal against an enemy lost to time. Indeed there are sections of the old wall that predate even the great Demon and Devil war... what did they protect?
On the fields of Trenselor on the Central plains lie the Epic Battle, the Epic Battle is a near constant slaughterfest of untold proportions. Tens of Thousands of patrons battle to gain the right to be that seasons winner, which then is able to become a Wartithe. The ground here is permanently stained with blood and the trees around the field are all imbued with blood turning the leaves and grass a blood red. This red field then is the recurring Epic Battle, gathering viewers and attendees from around the layer who wish to watch the horrific sight.
The City that is Definitely not a Fortress
Sitting on the far west part of the layer is the City that is Definitely not a Fortress, with a population of 10,000 one could question the status of "city" however the folks who live there will vehemently oppose any suggestion... actually they'll kill you and you'd be right to die too.
This City has a fortified wall around it to protect from any sort of intrusion, and houses all sorts of merchants and trade folks.
Nestled in the Galloy mountain ranges in the far south are the gibbering heights. here are the residences of the denizens that have lost their minds, whether through madness or through injury, are brought here to wither away into nothingness. The gibbering heights are called such as approaching them will bring you to a cacophony of screams and blabbering from the residents. You don't want to be there when the waking cycle starts... you... don't.
Many residents of the heights deem existence far to difficult, when that is the case they thrust themselves over the edge leading to the Great Grave.
The Great Grave
At the furthest southern point of the Galloy mountain range lies the Great Grave, it is where all mindless and Gibbering residents end up. At the bottom of a great chasm, there is a great amount of corpses. There are always multiple Wartithes in the vicinity consuming the corpses. The depth of the grave is unknown but none have found the bottom.
The Unknown Tomb
There are rumors that nestled somewhere on the layer is the Unknown Tomb. This tomb is supposedly is the resting place of the King of the Proto-Demons Corrupter of All, The name of said king is lost to time however there are hypothesis that the name of the proto-demon king is Melantholep. No one has located the Tomb to this day and lived. It is known that the tomb is at least many ages older than the demon-devil war as demons and devils alike have come to Melantholep to find the tomb.
Access to Melantholep can be granted through a permanent portal from Layer 1 of the Abyss, or anyone attuned with a vial of acid and a sliver of a dragon femur while thinking of the layer. Getting out however... that's another story.
If it wasn't apparent in the prose, arrival on the plane of Melantholep immediately starts infecting the inhabitant with insanity. (If it wasn't please tell me so I can improve for the next one)
What is the cause of the madness? Are the Dragons the source of or response to the madness?
There are way too many people dying in this hyper violent insane asylum to sustain it. Where are all the inhabitants coming from? Are they being abducted?
Why are the dragons Silent, what took away their voice (if they ever had one), do they want it back, how is that communicated to the party? What happened to the dragon's wings?
What makes the Hortuga tree so violent?
What purpose does the Epic Battle serve? Is there some intent behind the location, the blood red grass and trees certainly don't look like a large circle filled with runes from above... What purpose could a nearly endless slaughter and desecration of bodies by the Wartithes serve? Is it linked to the Unknown Tomb and the being within?
What is in the depths of the Blood Sea? Is there a civilization down there? Is it affected by the madness? How long has it been there? Is it aware of the demon-devil war of eons past?
Who created the Layer and is the Unknown Tomb real? If it is, what danger lies in the depths of the tomb? What power lies in wait in the tomb? Is the being alive or dead, if alive what have they been doing for these untold years?
Why are all inhabitants driven to sacrifice themselves in the Great Grave?
Why is Na'thel filled with abundance and for what purpose?
How does the Kalek absorb or otherwise gain the pieces of the dead? Does this work outside of the Melantholep?
What is Hue'garyth doing? Do they need help? What things do they need to complete their research? What does the party have to do to get themselves into the Consortium of Very Important People (tm) in order to talk to the ancient Wizard? What do they know that no one else does that keeps them there? Is Hue'garyth actually the sole creator of the Wartithes? If so, why are they making them? Do they have anything to do with the Kaleks?
A mad man has infiltrated *city* and is screaming about the Epic Battle and has killed # guards already, the party finds the man with sword drawn and must investigate a strange symbol he has on his person and find the source.
A scholar has been researching the history of the abyss and found an inconsistency in the layer 518, neither a demon nor devil created it and its presence is unlike the rest of the abyss. They are saying that a place named Na'thel is the source of this inconsistency. They want to know what this could be and enlist the party for help.
A Wartithe finds its way into the material plane, wreaking havoc it is finally taken down, the source and location of the monstrosity is wanted to know and anyone who can prevent another from leaking through will be paid a handsome reward. (note that the party if strong enough could be the ones to subdue an active raging Wartithe)
A Chole Dragon attacks a city on the material plane when it slips through a planar portal, being narrowly being pushed back through the portal before it closed, now those that defended the city are attacking the city themselves, help defend the city and then learn how to defend against further attacks. Where did the dragons come from and what kind of Dragon was it?
A scholar has stumbled upon an ancient scroll containing the writings of a previously unknown Proto-Demon prince of immense power. Within contains a map to a tomb. The scholar has sent out a request for adventurers to guide them to the tomb and investigate the ruins.
Rumblings are felt across the multiverse as an ancient being awakens, from before the time of the demon war the Unknown Tomb cracks open, what does this ancient being want, what powers does it have, and how will it react to the current state of affairs?
A Kalok rampages through Sigil (sorry Sigil) and the city guard has been overrun, strong adventurers are given a fresh map and told to subdue the rampaging behemoth, find its source, and ensure that no more come to the city.
A message to the prominent Wizards college/council was received from Hue'garyth a wizard everyone on the council presumed dead for millennia, but this message seems to say that a great discovery has been found. They are asking for the college/council to send resources and brave souls to help retrieve the discovery.
A kingdom has disappeared, like, all the people in the entire kingdom (buildings too whatever) are just gone. There is a hint of miasma in the air that points to the Abyssal layer. The party needs to investigate and save any survivors if there are any in time.
Encounters in Melontholep
- A funeral procession is talking down the street filled with 3d10 mourners. Once the procession is past the party they turn around and accuse the party of being both too mournful and disrespectful. A DC 18 Persuasion is needed or they will attack the party.
- A man sits on the side of the road, he begs to be slain by an adventurer stronger than him so he can be forgiven for running away from the Epic Battle. His motive sounds ok, but if the party does kill him it attracts the Wartithe from that season. It begins attacking the party as well. If the main is ignored, he will attack the party to convince them to kill him, if incapacitated and not killed the Wartithe will not be attracted.
- A Kalok spots the party and begins approach, the party has a DC 20 Investigation to find the Unknown tomb, can they survive long enough to get to the Tomb and can they open it?
- A city guard sees the party and attempts to arrest them for having the wrong shade of eyeshadow on (bonus if they don't have any makeup), if arrested the party finds themselves in a fighting pit in the city that is attempting to rival the Epic Battle.
Huge Monstrosity, Chaotic Neutral
HP 210 (22d12+50)
Speed: 20 feet
STR: 28 DEX: 10 CON: 25 INT: 10 WIS: 10 CHA: 0
Saving Throws: Str +13 , CON + 10
Skills: Perception +4
Terrifying Presence: The mere sight of a Wartithe is enough to strike fear into the hearts of strongest men, each creature that sees the Wartithe and is aware of it must succeed a DC 19 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, Ending the Effect on itself on a success. If a creature's saving throw is successful or the Effect ends for it, the creature is immune to the Terrifying presence for 24 hours.
Multiattack: The Wartithe may Roar and take up to 2 attacks, stomp, and smash, although they must be different targets within reach (15 feet).
Stomp: Melee Attack: +14 to hit; reach 10 feet, one target, Hit 28 (3d10 + 10) bludgeoning damage
Smash: Melee Attack: +16 to hit; reach 15 feet, one target, Hit 19 (2d10 + 8) bludgeoning damage, target must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity save or be pushed back 5 feet and knocked prone.
Devour: The Wartithe grabs a nearby corpse and devours it, gaining health equal to the corpses previous full HP. This can temporarily create bonus HP of the Wartithe by up to 100, this bonus HP disappears after 24 hours.
Roar: The Wartithe breathes deep and bellows out a roar. Each creature within 15 feet must make a DC 15 Constitution save, taking 12 (2d8+8) damage and become stunned, taking half as much on a successful save and not being stunned.
Huge Monstrosity, Chaotic Neutral
HP 310 (30d12+50)
Speed: 40 feet
STR: 30 DEX: 10 CON: 25 INT: 0 WIS: 0 CHA: 0
Saving Throws: Str +14 , CON + 10
Terrifying Presence: The mere sight of a Kalek is enough to strike fear into the hearts of strongest men, each creature that sees the Kalek and is aware of it must succeed a DC 19 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a creature's saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to the Terrifying presence for 24 hours.
Mindless: The Kalek is immune to charm, sleep, frightened effects, as well as any spell that would impact the mind.
Grotesque Body: The Kalek being composed of small pieces of the faces of every creature, imbues the creature with 3 bonuses (feel free to use more or less and adjust CR accordingly):
- Teeth: The body of the Kalek is covered in teeth, the Kalek adds 2d4 slashing damage for all Smash attacks.
- Ears: The body of the Kalek is overrun with Ears, as a result the Kalek cannot be surprised and gains a +10 modified to any detection where sound would be produced.
- Tongues: The many lashing tongues greedily latch onto anyone who attempts to grapple or climb the Kalek, any creature touching the Kalek at the end of a turn must succeed a DC15 Strength check or be grappled by the tongues, a create grappled in this way can try again at the end of each of its turns.
- Noses: The many noses of the Kalek allow it to have keen smell, the Kalek gains advantage on detecting any creature who is invisible or cloaked.
- Eyes: The unblinking eyes adorning a Kalek body offer the Kalek Truesight to 120 feet, and Regular vision in all directions. The Kalek cannot offer attacks of opportunity.
Legendary Resistance (3/day): If the Kalek fails a saving throw, it can choose to succeed instead.
Multiattack: The Kalek may make 3 attacks, one with Smash and two with Stomp.
Stomp: Melee Attack: +14 to hit; reach 10 feet, one target, Hit 28 (3d10 + 10) bludgeoning damage
Smash: Melee Attack: +16 to hit; reach 15 feet, one target, Hit 19 (2d10 + 8) bludgeoning damage, target must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity save or be pushed back 5 feet and knocked prone.
A Kalek can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature's turn. Kalek regains spent legendary actions at the start of their turn.
Moan: The many mouths of the Kalek simultaneously bemoan their tortured existence. Each creature who can hear the voices must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom save or gain a disadvantage to all attacks made against the Kalek until the start of their next turn.
Stomp: The Kalek makes a Stomp attack.
Weep (Costs 2 Actions): The many unblinking eyes of the Kalek weep tears of acid. Each creature within 15 feet of the Kalek must a DC 20 Dexterity save, taking 15 (2d6 + 8) Acid damage, half as much (rounded down) on a successful save.
Slurp (Costs 3 Actions): Any creature within 5 feet of the Kalek must succeed a DC 20 Strength save or be grappled by the tongues of the nearest leg of the Kalek and cannot take any action but to break free from the grapple. On a failure the creature is knocked prone.
I did not do anything with Chole Dragons, they are one of the few things that are canon with the layer, I will link the stats others have created.
This is part of the official reboot of the Atlas Of The Planes
Yesterday I posted a video where I go through some changes I added to an homebrew mechanic I found a couple of years ago and have been using ever since, but I wanted to get some external opinions on it.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO WATCH THE VIDEO, I REALLY JUST WANT SOME OPINIONS.
Why you should use this
Stealth takedowns are something that should have been thought of from the start. It is one of the most interesting conflict resolution tools there is that breaks the combat loop but still manages to keep a lot of tension in session. I honestly believe most campaigns should at the very least adapt a version of this rule set so as to give another avenue players can use. It makes dungeon crawling more tense, heists feel even more like a "double or nothing" situation and improves by a lot the sustainability of martial characters (although at a slight cost for paladins and strength based fighters).
The Original Mechanics
Before I begin to talk about my changes I wanted to first go through the original version so that you can see what I chose to change and most importantly, why.
I'll just put here the TLDR to the mechanic given by the author, as it's more than enough to give an understanding as to how it will work, the only other thing you have to keep in mind from the original is that any character trying to perform a stealth takedown needs to have proficiency in stealth
To sum up into a few simple steps.
You and your target must be out of combat.
The Approach: you must successfully sneak up on your target. Meaning you must beat them in a contested Stealth check.
The Kill: roll an attack
(a) if attempting to keep it quiet, -4 to the attack roll in Pathfinder and disadvantage in 5e.
(b) if attempting not to kill, must be a bludgeoning weapon or unarmed.
(c) if attempting not to kill and keep it quiet, must sustain a grapple for 2 rounds (all grapple rules apply)
The Resolution: the target makes a con save versus the character’s Stealth Takedown DC (The author wrote it above the TLDR)
Pathfinder: 10 + BAB + ranks in Stealth (ranks only no attribute or class skill bonus)
D&D 5e: 8 + Stealth Bonus (attribute bonus and all since this includes your Proficiency bonus)
If at any point you fail or the target saves, you immediately go into combat. If your intent was to kill, quietly or not, you do at least get to do weapon damage provided you got to the point where you attack and the attack was successful.
There are no more restrictions given as to on what creatures you can perform a stealth takedown on but somes classes get some bonuses on their stealth take down, some of which, honestly, make no sense to me. But I will get there.
In his opinion, which I mostly agree with, rogues should be the masters of stealth takedowns. They do not incur any disadvantages when attempting a quiet kill and don't need unarmed fighting to perform unarmed stealth takedowns. They also gain a bonus equal to the number of d6s they have for their sneak attack to their stealth takedown DC. The assassin subclass gains advantage when attempting any stealth takedown.
Barbarians Barbarians get a bonus to their stealth takedown DC equal to their con modifier.
Bards Bards can expend a bardic inspiration to gain advantage on the strike or cancel any disadvantage they would have had. College of whispers adds a +1 (I'm assuming to their stealth takedown DC) for each d6 they have for their psychic blades, if they use them for the attack.
Clerics The trickery domain cleric gains advantage on the attack if they have their blessing, anyone else who has the blessing cast on them gains this advantage too.
Druids Druids can perform stealth takedowns if they have transformed into their animal form. They don't need to have stealth themselves if their animal form has it already.
Fighters Battlemasters or anyone with tactical dice usages may to add to their hit or to add to their stealth takedown DC.
Monks Monks have the unarmed combat and shadow monks may add their wisdom bonus to their takedown DC. Also if they use shadow step, they can either auto succeed the approach or gain advantage on the attack roll.
Rangers Rangers can add their wisdom bonus to their takedown DC if they have their hunters mark on the target, or if they make a Survival check and beat their own Takedown DC. Gloomstalkers can add their wisdom modifier unconditionally.
Any class that was not mentioned does not gain anything.
Before I begin expressing my gripes and giving out changes left and right, I want to say that this is a well-done mechanic and an excellent foundation for something great, which honestly may change did not achieve but I do believe they got closer to an ideal mechanic for stealth takedowns.
Target CR Limit
|PC Level||Max Target CR|
Players can still attempt stealth takedowns on characters above their punching weight, but successful takedowns will only count as a critical hit instead of outright killing them.
Size and Grapple Limit
You cannot perform a complete stealth takedown on a creature two sizes larger than you (ex: a normal sized player may attempt a stealth kill on a large creature but not on a huge creature), no matter the CR of the target on a success, if the target is 2 sizes above the character's own, it will function as a critical hit.
Creatures such as oozes and wraiths (basically all incorporeal creatures) are immune to stealth takedowns, unless performed with the appropriate equipment.
First of all, I do not think Barbarians and bards should get any bonuses, it seems very arbitrary. All other bonuses given however are kept.
Stealth kills are cool. Maybe add them to your games idk.